After ALS diagnosis, Austin marathoner finishes London race in wheelchair

Austinite Bill Corrigan started running when he was 45 to help fight his high cholesterol. After his first marathon at age 48, he asked himself, “Why did I do that?”

Then he got the marathon fever and was on track to do six of the major world marathons. He ran New York in 2017, Chicago in 2018. Berlin was in 2021. He qualified for the Boston Marathon, but then COVID-19 delayed it, along with his London Marathon bid.

But about 18 months ago, he noticed his toe would hit the ground when he was running and he would trip. When he ran the Berlin Marathon in September 2021, it took him a long time — six hours. “There were people walking faster than me,” Corrigan said.

That’s when his wife and a friend told him he needed to see a specialist and get an MRI.

On Feb. 2, Corrigan, 62, was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

On Oct. 2, Corrigan finished the London Marathon, but unlike in previous marathons, he covered all 26.2 miles in a wheelchair.

Getting to diagnosis:‘Gives me my life back’: An Austin woman’s journey to diagnosing a mystery illness

Bill Corrigan gets a kiss from one of his children after finishing the London Marathon.

Understanding ALS

ALS is a progressive neuromuscular disease that damages the nerves and causes muscle loss. It affects everyone slightly differently, said Dr. Shailesh Reddy of Austin Neuromuscular Center. Sometimes initial symptoms include difficulty swallowing or breathing, or hand weakness. In Corrigan’s case, his weakness has all been in his legs.

ALS “takes all trades,” Reddy said. There are people who are diagnosed in their 80s and others in their 30s, he said.