Achilles International

week 20:  this week i'm gonna... enable someone with a disability to race

Bill Reilly pushes himself backward, with guides Juliana LeBlanc and Harold Chayefsky on his left and right

Bill Reilly pushes himself backward, with guides Juliana LeBlanc and Harold Chayefsky on his left and right

Very few of us have the endurance to run a marathon.  Even fewer of us have the strength to do it in a wheelchair. Backwards. With the use of only one leg.

"Backwards Bill" Reilly has taught everyone what it means to be a champion. Born with cerebral palsy, which severely limits his speech and muscle control, Reilly has participated in over 35 marathons by pushing his specially designed wheelchair backwards with one leg. He has a dedicated team of trainers from Achilles International that run with him and help him brake and steer the chair. With the help of his guides, Reilly most recently completed the NYC marathon in November 2015.

Reilly's longtime friend and guide, Harold Chayefsky, says, "Bill loves the sport of running, for the challenge, for the health benefits that staying active provides, and of course to support [cerebral palsy] charities.  But, one of his primary motivations is to use the platform to show children with disabilities that they, too, can participate in mainstream athletic activities.”

The mission of Achilles International is to enable people with all types of disabilities to participate in mainstream running events in order to promote personal achievement. Through their chapters in over 65 locations within the United States and abroad, able-bodied volunteers and athletes with disabilities come together to train in an environment of support and community. 

Specialized programs include:

  • The Achilles Freedom Team, which serves wounded military personnel and veterans
  • Achilles Kids, which provides training, race opportunities, and an in-school program for children with disabilities
  • The Achilles Para-triathlon Team, which expands the running program into biking and swimming
  • Achilles Chapter running groups, who meet and train on a regular schedule, once or twice a week
  • The Achilles International signature race, Hope & Possibility, which takes place annually in several cities worldwide

Their programs focus on running, but running is simply the tool for accomplishing their main objective: to bring hope, inspiration, and the joys of achievement to all.

Watch the video below for more inspiration and information on Achilles International.

Catherine, left, runs alongside his guide.

Catherine, left, runs alongside his guide.

Another participant in the 2015 NYC marathon was Charles Edouard Catherine, a 27-year old first-time runner. Catherine suffers from retinitus pigmentosa, a condition that progressively kills the light-receptive rods and cones in the retinas of one's eyes. He became legally blind three years ago - just as he was moving to the city to marry his wife.

Catherine's biggest challenge in working up to a marathon, he said, was "just starting the process - accepting that I was blind, that I needed a guide." He now enjoys the companionship offered by his Achilles International guides, one of which always runs beside him with a tether attaching their waist bands. "It just feels like running with a bunch of buddies," says Catherine. 

Notes for this week:

  • May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month.
  • Our collective givetwig donation will sponsor approximately 17 Achilles athletes to compete in a mainstream race.
  • For further information regarding Achilles International, please check out their website.

this week i'm gonna donate to Achilles International.

please share the givetwig awesomeness!