Stroke survivor Bill Deering, from Vic, competes in the Two Bays Trail Ultra Race (56kms), Melbourne. Image – Supplied.
By Kate Dzienis
If there is one man in the community of running who was put on this earth to inspire, it is 43-year-old Bill Deering from Point Cook, Vic.
I first met Bill in August 2014 after I competed in my first half marathon, the Perth Half; at a slow pace (and on a personal note, vastly overweight), I was last out of a field of 1,012 and just 200m before the finish line, where the crowds had long since dissipated and most runner’s gone home, a little blue car honked loudly as it passed me out of the parking lot – a crazy couple cheering me on and yelling for me to get across the mark.
Those cheers were the only thing spurring me on to finish.
Two days later when the race’s results were out, I was facebook messaged by the couple in the little blue hatchback – it was Bill and his wife Ayumi, and their personal message to me about how they admired someone who was doing a half for more than three hours, slugging it out and getting the job done.
It was one of the most amazing gestures of support I’d ever received, and ever since then, I’ve seen how Bill puts inspiration into so many other people’s dreams and goals, and along the way I learnt of his story.
In 2004, Bill suffered through a massive Ischemic stroke, whereby a clot had blocked the blood flow to a particular region of his brain.
As it so happened, his doctor sat on his bed three days after the traumatic event took place and once Bill had regained consciousness, told him he was lucky to be alive – that if he was 10 years older, Bill may not have survived at all.
“I was told there was no guarantee I would regain movement in my left side,” he says.
“Walking again would be unlikely and running would be impossible given the location and damage to my brain.”
Bill found himself on a ward with 60 to 70-year old patients, and simply got fed up.
After just two weeks at hospital, he discharged himself but in doing so, cut off any rehabilitation that the facility would provide, so instead Bill was faced with the reality that he had to do the rehab on his own (privately).
Through his own stubbornness to get better, he went from wheelchair to walking stick, but it wasn’t until 2011 that he decided he needed to reach for more than just walking.
“When I first ran with my good friend who invited me to run laps at a local park, he would literally run laps around me and I hated how poor my fitness had become,” he says.
“So I thought no, I’m not going to be the fat guy anymore watching my kids instead of playing with them.
“I stopped the huge meal portions and stopped drinking alcohol, and literally trained my bum off.”
Bill’s come a long way since 2004 – instead of tackling a half marathon or marathon as his first race, he went head first into the world of ultras and entered the 6 Inch Trail Ultra (WA) in 2011.
He finished 46kms in a time of 5:57:38.
Bill’s come a long way since his very first ultra, seen here, at the 6 Inch Trail in WA. Image – Supplied.
And ever since that day, Bill has become known to tackle the long distances, but not without a little help.
He wears compression socks to minimise muscle vibration when his left foot hits the ground; in his own case, he is unable to flex his left calf muscle because it essentially doesn’t function – he gets no forward toe-off, no propulsion.
Due to that change in physical body structure after his stroke, he is almost guaranteed a calf strain after a run of 20kms or more, and sometimes even wraps his calf in a bandage underneath the compression sleeve for added assistance.
These days, with the support of his wife and children, Bill has taken on one of the most challenging goals to date – running an ultra at least once every month in 2016.
“In December, I sat down to plan out a rough schedule of 2016, and in the end I could see there were only a few months where I didn’t have an ultra so I just thought, hang on – let’s do an ultra every month, just for fun,” he says.
“My race list isn’t set in concrete as it depends on how I recover from each one so if my next race is too soon I might pass on it and race later that month.”
“Two Bays has been my toughest to date,” he says.
“I lack the ability to climb steps and the race had hundreds of steps which took its toll on me mentally and physically, though I never considered quitting I did question myself if I could get to the finish.”
In March, it will be the Coastal Challenge 65kms (SA) and April will see him hit the Coburg 24hr track; Bill is adamant on returning to WA in December for his nostalgic 6 Inch Trail Ultra.
“Having family and friends’ support is my motivation, it keeps me moving forward when my legs are screaming to stop,” he reveals.
“Nothing beats the feeling of finishing an ultra that you have struggled through and then to see your support at the finish makes it all worthwhile.”
Bill doesn’t see himself as an inspiration to others, but those around him think otherwise – it’s clear as day when you see all the running community rally behind him at the finish lines and comment on his online socials.
“It’s tough to say I think I inspire people,” he goes on.
“I’ve even once been called a hero, which is amazing to hear, but still hard to accept – after all, I’m just a runner, and not a very good one at that.
“But if someone finds inspiration in my running adventures, then I’m proud to have helped them in some way.”
Follow Bills successes in ultra running by liking his facebook page here.
Bills says the support of his children, pictured here, and his wife Ayumi has been what’s kept him going. Image – Supplied.