AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin resident Bill Corrigan has been a marathoner for 20 years, with 12 marathons under his belt. Now, he’s working to tackle the World Marathon Majors and complete the six greatest marathons around the world — and said a recent ALS diagnosis won’t deter him.
On Sunday, Corrigan will tackle the London Marathon, racing alongside 50,000 competitors from around the globe. It’s a race he’s been training for for several months but a dream years in the making, he said.
And it comes on the heels of his recent ALS diagnosis. For nine months, Corrigan struggled with balance and mobility issues, along with his performance dropping. After a slew of tests and doctor’s visits, he was diagnosed with ALS Feb. 2.
“[I] was really bummed and depressed for a little while, and then I said to myself, ‘really, how does this change your outlook on life?'” he said.
Thinking of the joy his training and racing has brought him, Corrigan said he didn’t want this diagnosis to stop him from pursuing his running goals, even if he had to find a new way to compete in races.
“I thought, ‘well, I’m just going to keep going,'” he said. “So I changed the initials for ALS to ‘adaptive lifestyle.'”
Dr. Shailesh Reddy, an Austin physician with the Austin Neuromuscular Center specializing in neuromuscular medicine, has worked with Corrigan since the months leading up to his diagnosis. The Austin Neuromuscular Center specializes in funding ALS research and offering clinical trials and medication options to patients who fit certain criteria outlined.
Through his time working with Corrigan, Reddy said his attitude — and continued sportsmanship — is a testament to him as a person and his fight against this disease.
“Bill’s case in particular, I think, highlights an attitude that’s hard to have towards progressive disease,” he said. “It’s not an easy attitude to have…I’m hoping that people kind of look at him as an example of, hey, I’m not going to let this disease keep me from living life.”
Since his diagnosis, Corrigan connected with the Texas Regional Para Sport, where he was outfitted with a push rim racing wheelchair. From it, he’s been able to meet and train with people of a variety of physical abilities, some who’ve even competed in and won medals in the Paralympics.
“Lots of times, the daily life, doing things in daily life is a struggle. So sports and activities like [racing] are a great way where you get out, you have freedom of movement,” he said. “I feel like I’m moving again, just like when I was running. So it’s wonderful.”
While he’s trained on and competed in his push rim racing wheelchair, Corrigan will be racing in his day chair in London due to event concerns about crowd sizes and safety regulations. But when life throws him lemons, he said he wants to keep on making lemonade.
He recently got to put his wheels to the test with a race in Tupelo, Mississippi. It helped put the final pieces of his London Marathon training together, which he’ll get to put on display Sunday.
For many people, the idea of crossing the finish line is as much a mental and emotional accomplishment as it is a physical feat. Corrigan said his emotions are already close to the surface as he thinks about what it’ll feel like, wheeling his way to that finish.
“This has been quite a journey, and even just, you know, preparing for this particular marathon, getting everything together,” he said. “I’m going to be crying, and I’ve told myself, okay, you don’t have to cross across the finish line in London. You can hold it back a little bit.”
Because, of course, he doesn’t want to ruin a picture-perfect finish line photo.
“I want to make sure what I don’t do is look at my watch as I go over [the finish line],” he said, laughing. “So I get great pictures of me raising my arms up.”