Running man with cerebral palsy makes history

The morning of Saturday 12 October was a momentous day for the world of athletics. With the streets of Vienna lined with cheering supporters Eliud Kipchoge became the first human being to run a sub 2-hour marathon. Once again, an amazing new world record has been set and the limits of physical endurance have been pushed that little bit further. Across the Atlantic, another marathon runner is set to take on his own challenge. Should he succeed, his achievement will be equally incredible.

Justin Gallegos, 21, is a professional marathon runner. This weekend he will line up with the multitude of other dedicated athletes to take on the Chicago Marathon. Like his fellow runners, he will battle the arduous course which constitutes one of the six World Marathon Majors. However, he will have one extra challenge: Justin has cerebral palsy.

The University of Oregon senior has been running since high school. In 2016, he won gold in the Paralympics-Ambulatory division for the 400 meters at the California State Track and Field Championships. In 2018, it was announced that he had been contracted to Nike, making Justin the first ever athlete with cerebral palsy to be signed to the global brand. It also gave Justin a valuable social media platform, significantly boosting the profile of cerebral palsy on the world athletics stage.

Running has certainly made a positive impact in Justin’s life, improving his fitness, strength and co-ordination. He still falls every now and then, but it’s something he takes in his stride. When he takes part in the Chicago Marathon today, this will arguably be his greatest test yet. But just as he has achieved his dream of becoming a professional athlete, there is little doubt he will attain his goal of competing the 26.2-mile course on Sunday.

The word ‘inspiration’ is often banded about where disability is concerned – sometimes a little too freely. However, to describe Justin as an inspiring figure seems more than fitting as he continues to motivate people around the world (disabled and able-bodied alike). Athletes like Eliud Kipchoge and Justin Gallegos are all about pushing limits and challenging what is possible. They are the forerunners of their sport, cutting a path where others can follow and we should consider ourselves lucky to have such pioneers to look up to.

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