New York Daily News 4/11/13 by Irving Dejohn
Disabled Queens athlete set to compete in his 32nd marathon
A disabled Queens man is living proof that where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Despite being afflicted by cerebral palsy that has relegated him to a wheelchair, Kew Gardens man William Reilly is in a rarified class of athlete: the prolific marathon racer.
Reilly is gearing up to compete in the famed Boston Marathon on Monday. That prestigious race will be his 32nd marathon, an amazing accomplishment even for someone in peak physical condition.
“Each time I do it I’m excited,” said Reilly, 60. “It never gets old.”
The inspirational athlete is unmistakable on race day. Reilly garnered the nickname “Backwards Bill” because he pushes himself along the route backwards in his specialized wheelchair, powered by the balls of his feet.
“When they first gave it to me, I hated it,” he said of his moniker. “It grew on me.”
The sharp-witted Reilly, an accountant for the Cerebral Palsy Associations of New York State, stays on course with the help of several guides, who walk or jog along side of him during the races.
Harold Chayefsky, who has travelled alongside Reilly on numerous races throughout the country, said Reilly refuses any boosts forward, only permitting them to steer when he gets off track.
“It’s incredible determination,” said Chayefsky, 50. “He powers himself completely. He does all the work.”
Reilly has completed the 26.2-mile trek in as little as 6 hours, and often tries to best his own times, Chayefsky said.
Reilly said he hopes to “set a new personal record.”
The Manhattan-based entrepreneur and Reilly met four years ago through Achilles International, a nonprofit group that encourages disabled people to remain active.
Chayefsky said he is inspired by his friend, who often approaches their workouts with more enthusiasm than he does at times.
“He’s more ready with more energy than we are sometimes,” marvelled Chayefsky. “He’s very inspiring.”
Meanwhile, as he prepares for his big event in Boston, Reilly said he hopes his athletic feats provide motivation to the younger generation of people that feel hampered by their ailments.
“I hope they use me as a role model,” he said.
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