A man's mission to defy Lou Gerig's Disease
By: Pat Riley
Chally Erb has participated in the Great Greenbrier River Race for most of the 30 years it has been in existence. The man takes great pride and enjoys tearing through the streets, river, and River Trail in Marlinton, WV every spring on his feet, kayak, and bike. Competing in a race every spring for almost 30 years is a feat that few of us can do, and nothing is going to stop Chally from continuing to compete in the Great Greenbrier River Race, not even being diagnosed with a debilitating illness like Lou Gerig’s Disease, or ALS.
Chally was diagnosed in February, 2015 and participated in the 2015 Great Greenbrier River Race. This year, in 2016, he is confined to a wheel chair and is unable to participate on his own. A decision had to be made. Will 2015 be the last time that Chally ever competes in the race that he loves or will he find a way to overcome this illness and continue on as if nothing has ever changed?
Instead of letting the mental demons that can come with a diagnosis that means the loss of the ability to be as active as he used to be, Chally gathered up a bunch of his close family and friends and said, take me for a spin around the course. They did in grand fashion!
His daughter pushed him in a stroller for the run portion of the race, his grandson and granddaughter rowed him in the canoe, and his son-in-law had him attached to his bicycle for the 10 miles on the bike.
I have met lot’s of runners who are past their glory days of running and can fit them into two categories. Those who still enjoy it, and those who don’t compete because they will never be as good as they once were. For Chally, the sad truth is that he will never be able to compete on his own again, but he can still enjoy it!
An hour before, I had the pleasure of meeting Chally. I just smiled and thought, this man OWN’s life as he asked me to change his team name from Chally’s Follies to Benjamin Button. What a great sense of humor!
A little after the start of the race, my wife Emily, who was taking photos for us, ran up to me and said “Oh My, did you see Chally” and shows me a picture on the small preview screen on the Nikon D80 she was shooting with. What I saw on that little screen put a HUGE smile on my face and I had to run and share it with the Race Director, Brenda Cochran.
All three of us were staring at this little screen and laughing, enjoying looking at a man who was being pushed in a baby stroller (Bob Stroller – Pretty nice one), wearing a red nose, baby bonnet, and a pacifier in his mouth. The tattoos on the arms that were waving like crazy at everyone on the side of the race course were a great contrast for a picture of man that has taken some horrible news and said “Forget it, I am going to live my life to the fullest”.