'Backwards Bill' an inspiration for disabled athletes in TCS New York City Marathon

Friday, October 31, 2014

NEW YORK (WABC) -- With more than 330 disabled athletes in 150 wheelchairs, the TCS New York City Marathon has the largest fields of athletes with disabilities of any race in the world.

As part of our partnership with Runners World for this year's marathon, Amy Freeze caught up a New Yorker who has done more than 30 marathons on two wheels.

With arms that barely function and legs of diminished strength, Bill Reilly must use steady kicks in small increments to move his chair. What seems like a method against the odds is actually the inspiration of an endurance athlete.

"He's famous on the course," his guide, Harold Chayefsky, said.

He's become so familiar racing through the boroughs that the crowd gave him a nickname -- Backwards Bill.

"They approve and they scream and they know him on the course after 25 years or so," Chayefsky said.

Reilly has Cerebral palsy, yet claims nothing, not even training for 26.2 miles, to be difficult. He takes a trip in 1.5 hours to get weekly workout in every Saturday with his team.

He meets up with his Achilles Team guides, and they simulate the steering and breaking they will do on race day, where downhills can take them to a 7-minute pace amongst their 10-minute pace.

So what is it like on the course when you are shoulder to shoulder? They say First Avenue is tricky, as are some of the hills in Harlem and the 59th Street Bridge. But none of them are enough to slow Bill down.

His never-give-up and never-give-in attitude comes from his family.

"Started with his mom," Chayefsky said. "They wanted to put him away. His mother said no, he's my son and I'm going to make him grow and productive."

It's the same message Bill hopes others get from seeing him on race day.

"Disabled people, you can do anything you want if you put your mind to it," he said.