Bill Corrigan is an active outdoorsman who has always enjoyed hobbies like hiking and running. He initially got into marathon running to combat high cholesterol, and he ended up enjoying it so much that he made it his goal to complete all six World Marathon Majors. This meant that he would need to run the Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago, and New York Marathons.
“I managed to do New York and Chicago and I qualified for Boston, which is very difficult to do. Then the pandemic hit, and I wasn’t able to use my qualification until 2022. In the meantime, I was training for the Berlin Marathon in early October of 2021, and I was just noticing that wasn’t as fast as I thought. I should be. I was tripping more. I had a really bad trip towards the end of my training, which required a trip to the emergency. But then I went to Berlin and completed the marathon and finished it in six hours when I was expecting to finish it in about four hours.” Bill said.
Once Bill returned home, he began to investigate what may be wrong. Supported by his wonderful wife and friends, Bill finally received a diagnosis 6 months later. On Groundhog’s Day in 2022, he was diagnosed with ALS.
An ALS diagnosis is often devastating, and Bill had to take a few days to think about his new situation.
“I thought to myself, ‘You know, we all don’t know what’s going to happen with life and all kinds of things could happen to us. And so maybe this is what’s happened to me, but should this change my goals and my plans?’ And I said to myself, ‘No, it shouldn’t,’ So I immediately got on the bandwagon for training for the London Marathon which would be in October of 2022. It’s going to be different this time because I’m not going to be running it, so I got involved through a wonderful doctor, who pointed me in the direction of para-athletes and that community here in Central Texas, so they really helped me with my training.”
With the help of his brothers and brother-in-law, Bill still attended and participated in the Boston Marathon in 2022. Since he couldn’t run anymore, Bill began what he called an “adaptive lifestyle,” that allowed him to continue participating in things he enjoyed. He has found strength in the ALS community as he pushes forwards towards his goals.
“The ALS Association of Texas has been so helpful to me. People have given me great advice and support and the various meetings that we have, and whenever I start to feel a little bit bad, it’s great to have a community. That can help pick you up. It’s the best club that no one’s ever really wanted to join.”
Bill got a manual wheelchair just 2 weeks before the London Marathon, and completed the race in just under 8 hours.
“I went there with my children and had a wonderful time, so now I want to continue my journey to complete the six World Marathon majors and the next one for me would be to do Boston, which I hope to qualify using a hand cycle for 2024, so that’s what I’m going to be training for this year is to get better with the hand cycle,” Bill said. “The Tokyo Marathon is a tricky one for me. They have requirements, and I might not be able to do it. They’re not as adapted yet to the para-athlete community, and so we’ll see. One can hope for the future that they come along and they make some changes that would allow more athletes of different abilities to compete in their event.”
Bill knows how hard an ALS diagnosis can be, and he encourages others to tap into the incredible community around them for support.
“Advice I would give to people who are newly diagnosed with ALS is feel everything that you have in you. It’s important, you need to do that. Understand that there’s a large community that can help. You will learn lots of things and one of the first things that you should learn is to ask for help. Understand that it gives you a new lens on life and you’re able to see beauty and things that you may not have seen beauty before. So allow yourself to embrace the moment, and just see the beauty in things such as the leaves falling to the ground, children running around, playing, your neighbors walking in the street, it’s all beautiful.”
He has been able to rely on the ALS Association to help improve his quality of life by providing loaner gear and a supportive community to lean on.
“There’s, there’s so much gear that you’ve got to get, and you never know when you’re going to need it. So you have to get it before you need it. That’s the great thing about the ALS Association is because they can help you out, understand and anticipate your future needs and help you in getting some of these things. This wonderful thing that they provided me with is a trapeze that goes with my bed so that it helps me get in and out of bed a lot easier. They also will connect you with family members of people who have had ALS. It’s really good to connect with other people. It helps improve your spirits to understand about the community and that there is a community, and we can all smile and make each other’s day just a little bit better.”
Bill is a strongly independent person, so it is important to him that people understand the different barriers in the world around them. He hopes that public spaces will become more accessible as people learn more about mobility issues.
“As a person living with a disability, I’m finding the barriers to just getting around can be tremendous. I just would hope that more people have awareness about the difficulties that those of us who aren’t ambulatory or who are differently abled have to do to get around. I hope we continue to create living spaces that really embrace people of all different kinds of abilities and how they move around to make it easier in that manner.”
Bill continues to strive towards his goal of completing all six World Marathon Majors, even though his goal now looks a little different from when he began.
“ALS alters the journey of your life, but it doesn’t end it. It provides some challenges that you don’t expect to have and in odd ways that can be good because it may help you think about your life and some things that you want to do. Something that it gave me was the concept of ‘think it, do it.’ If there’s something that you want to do, there’s no better time like now. You can just put your mind to it, and you can make it happen, and you can clear away the other things that aren’t important to you and just focus on what is important to you. For me that usually involves my family, my friends and my community, and traveling. So if you’ve got an idea for traveling, put it together and make it happen. You can do it. There’s a lot of people out there that will help you do that. Things get hard, but you can keep moving right through them, and everyone is around to help you, and encourage you, and bring joy to your heart so that you can bring joy to others with your magnanimous heart. And I plan to push through; I have a model for running which is called ‘run through the tape.’ I don’t stop until I go all the way through the journey. So just run through the tape.
Bill will be sharing his story at the 2023 Under Ballou Skies Golf Party and Classic. Your support can help us serve even more people affected by ALS like Bill and his family. Join us in Austin on May 18th and 19th for golfing, good food, good company, amazing auction all to help defeat ALS