Q&A with Justin Gallegos

Justin Gallegos, 20, born and raised in Santa Clarita, CA with Cerebral Palsy. Now living the dream, a student at the University of Oregon and a member of the club running team. Hopes to run a sub two at the Eugene Half Marathon. His coach thinks he can do it. Justin knows he will do it. Never, ever doubt Justin Gallegos.

1.. How physically active were you as a child, your experience with sports in your primary through middle school years? What and how obstacles were overcome?

I was fairly active. Starting at age 6, I did karate every week for seven years. In regular classes for the public, all ages. During my middle school years, I did equestrian for the disabled.

2. You were planning on playing football in high school. What was your experience, if any, with football in your younger years? And how did you end up a regular on the mighty Hart High School track and cross country teams?

My dad was a football fan, and we attended USC football games. We tossed the football around. I loved it all, and thought I could somehow get on the freshman high school team. Dad suggested I talk to the cross country coach, and he encouraged me to give it a try, and that I would be on the team as long as I kept trying.

3. Obviously, running is a major part of your life. What are some of the unique physical challenges of a racer with Cerebral Palsy we don’t understand? And what can you do, and done to overcome the same?

You’re going to fall down. A lot. It’s scary for others to see, but, for me, I have to deal with it alone, without help. I’ll get up unassisted and run as soon as I can. As the years go by, I fall a lot less. At the start I’d fall two or three times a week. Now it’s only once a season. We all have obstacles and challenges to overcome. That’s mine.

4. You have a relationship with Nike. What is that? What is the FlyEase project and your role with that?

John Truax at Nike heard about me. He rallied employees at the Nike headquarters to help me with the cost of an out-of-state student at UO. Now I’m paying back on that kindness by helping FlyEase running shoes for the disabled, testing various models, offering suggestions. The first generation of FlyEase is now available to the public, but hardly anyone has heard about them. I will be wearing them, and talking about them, at the Eugene Half Marathon.

5. Your major is journalism. Are you writing news stories? Where do you see yourself, career-wise in the next 5 to 10 years?

No news stories yet. I hope to work at Nike at the Beaverton campus, a spokesperson to the disabled, and for the disabled, and in all ways to give back for those that helped me. .

6. You’re racing the Eugene Half Marathon on April 29th, the goal being the first runner with cerebral palsy to go sub two. What other near and more distant Ipun intended) racing goals do you have? A racer for life?

Though mostly a 1500 meter runner only, I want to work up to the marathons and beyond, and trail races too. I love running on the Ridgeline Trail, even with the rocks and roots, and the Rexius Trail with wood chips. Yes, I hope to run 3-4 times a week for the rest of my life.. And to race the the Boston and New York marathons.

7. In 2015, about to enter your senior year at Hart, you were passing through Eugene with your grandparents. While lunching at the Glenwood, you said: “I’m thinking about attending the University of Oregon.” And the rest of us at the table had the same unspoken reaction: “No way. Costly. So far from home.” You’re such a dreamer, but your dreams become reality. What’s the lesson here for the rest of us?

Don’t give up on your dreams. Be positive. There are obstacles to most everything, for everyone. Don’t quit without your best effort. In life or in a race.

8. If you were a billionaire and could give 2 or 3 books to every graduating high school senior, what would they be?

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight. It contains most all that I believe in , showing how we can achieve great things in the face of naysayers and huge obstacles. And, yes, I’ve met Phil Knight. He’s a truly good person.

Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle Is The Way. We all have problems. This book shows how to identify and develop the mental muscle to overcome life’s challenges.

Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F-k. Society is always telling us we need to care about everything and everyone, but in reality we first need to focus on our own needs, and what is truly worthy of our time and what and who we really care about. And to laugh a lot.

9. What would you do/have/be if you had 20 million dollars?

First, I’d pay off all bills, loans, parents for all they’ve done, and ensure there’s enough for retirement. And as much as possible to charities, especially United Cerebral Palsy.

10. Your message at a college commencement?

Life will throw you curveballs and screwballs, some good and some bad. Your time is limited, precious. Don’t be afraid of new things, and make the best of everything. Most of the best people have struggled through hard times, and they’re successful because they struggled, even embracing failures along the way, finding another way. There’s often a positive on the side of the negative.

11. What “good advice” is actually bad advice?

Not to take risks. We live in a society that doesn’t want anyone to get hurt. To bubble wrap everyone. You (or the people behind you) will never get down the stairs, or off a cliff, if you don’t take the first step.

Also, “victimhood” only leads to an entitlement mentality. If you once accept victimhood, you will always be a victim, never pushing for and to realize there is so much more you can do.

12. Stuff you do, besides running, that most people would consider insane.

Trust me on this. Everyone thinks racing with cerebral palsy is insane.

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