After returning from his second tour in Iraq, Aaron Ritter experienced an unfortunate motorcycle accident that resulted in the loss of his right leg. While most would have been tempted to throw in the towel, the 48 year old Virginia Beach native turned his trial into triumph. Today we sit down to learn his story and the key to his mindset that has allowed him to reach great heights as an amputee Ultra Marathon runner.
Onelife: When did your fitness journey begin?
My fitness journey began as a child. My parents gave our TV away when I was 6. For 7 years we lived active, healthy lifestyles without the distraction of TV. In high school I ran Cross Country, Track and played Football. My father and I were very active outdoors fishing, and hiking.
Onelife: How long did you serve in the military, what was your experience like?
I served a total of 28 years. Active and Reserve both. I enlisted in 1991, serving 4 years of active duty. From 1996 to 2005 I served in the Navy Reserve. From 2005 to 2021 I continued my active-duty career, retiring in May of 2021. I had an incredible career, I traveled the world and was paid to fulfill childhood dreams.
Onelife: What were some key things you learned from your experience in the military that you think helps your success in fitness today?
Scheduling. We always scheduled time for “PT”. If you do not schedule time, you will find reasons not to do it. I happen to be a morning person, so I usually exercise first thing in the morning.
Onelife: What was your initial outlook on life and yourself upon becoming an amputee? How has that changed as time has passed?
At the very moment I realized my leg was gone, I thought my life would end. Everything I had accomplished up to that point in life was on two legs. All my future plans involved two legs. Once I overcame the initial shock of the loss, I decided I would live a better life than I ever had before. I focused on living a life as a two-legged person. I live a limb-itless life and do more with one leg than most do on two.
Onelife: What inspired you to become an Ultra Marathon runner?
My inspiration to run an Ultra was just to see if I could do it. I would rather try and fail, then never make an attempt. There are great lessons to be learned through failure. I looked at my first Ultra through that lens. I actually ran my first 50K 10 days after my first Boston Marathon. I was still pretty beat up from Boston, but I made it to the finish line.
Onelife: What and/or who motivates you daily?
Life motivates me. My love of activity motivates me. An active lifestyle is a healthy lifestyle; as an amputee, that is magnified.
Onelife: You recently ran the Boston Marathon, tell us about your experience.
Boston 2021 was incredible. I had a shortened training cycle due to injury, but I had an amazing run. I qualified and raced as a part of the first Para-Athlete division. My wife registered as my official course handler and ran every stride with me. I developed our race plan, and we ran it by the book and had an amazing time. As for training in Virginia Beach, we ran bridges and focused on strength training. I worked out at Onelife in the morning, and we ran bridges in the evening. Our longest run during training was a 17-mile run on the Jordan Bridge.
Onelife: How has the club helped facilitate your ability to live the fittest life possible?
Onelife provides an open environment for all types of training mindsets. Whether its active recovery or functional fitness, I can train as hard and loud as I want or need.
Onelife: What does the word, “healthy” mean to you?
Healthy is, “balanced” to me. Extremes in any direction are not healthy.
Onelife: What’s one thing you wish the world knew more about in relation to veterans and why?
Diversity. My career in the military provided the most diverse environment I have ever been introduced to. The US Armed Forces, in themselves, are immensely diverse. Add to that my tours with NATO. I have worked in environments with all four branches of US forces, with 13 other countries simultaneously. It is nearly impossible to create an environment more diverse than that.
To all of our Veterans, we salute you. Thank you for your service and journeys you all have endured that continue to inspire us daily.