Formerly paralyzed man trains to compete in Ironman

Rod Hutchins has Guillain–Barré syndrome but won't let it keep him from racing.

ByABC News
August 7, 2017, 2:49 PM

— -- After more than two decades, Rod Hutchins is finally very close to accomplishing his lifelong goal of completing an Ironman, the grueling, non-stop race that includes a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride, and a 26.2-mile run.

But Hutchins was once far from ready to race. Diagnosed with Guillain–Barré syndrome in the 1990s, Hutchins was paralyzed from the waist down, he told ABC affiliate KIFI. The syndrome causes muscle weakness and pain as the body's immune system starts to attack its nervous system.

"Five doctors were put together, and in 9 months, we did nine surgeries," Hutchins told KIFI. "We had both hips replaced, both knees scoped, one knee replaced [and] a hiatal hernia. I ultimately had a spinal stimulator stuck in my back, and all that was due to the virus I had."

After his multiple medical procedures and treatments, Hutchins said he started the long road to recovery and set a goal for himself: to complete the Ironman in Kona, Hawaii.

He reached out to local businesses and trainers to help him get ready to race.

"It's hard to believe how positive he is," Gray Augustus, the owner of Bill’s Bike and Run, who helped Hutchins with this training, told KIFI. "I was taken aback. I was like 'Is this guy for real? Is he legitimately this gung-ho and determined to do it?' because we see a lot of people who are like that."

But Hutchins could barely walk at the time, and everyone knew he needed more than just a positive attitude to accomplish his goal.

So Hutchins started training -- and soon inspired other people along the way.

"It's fun to work with Rod because he wants to just get things done," Mike Taylor, one of his trainers, told KIFI. "When he literally falls off his bike, he gets back up -- blood and all. He keeps going and that's super amazing."

And on Aug. 5, Hutchins proved all that hard work was paying off.

During the Great Snake River Triathlon in Idaho, he crossed the finish line and took third place in his age group. That milestone brought him one step closer to his ultimate goal of completing an Ironman.

The Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, takes place on Oct. 14.