nike breaking2 justin gallegos_00001106.jpg
nike breaking2 justin gallegos_00001106.jpg
Now playing
00:46
Justin Gallegos Nike Breaking2
usoa s3 kamau bell paul coleman_00013730.jpg
usoa s3 kamau bell paul coleman_00013730.jpg
Now playing
02:44
Kamau visits the world's greatest stargazing site
USOA Hawaii RON 1_00002328.jpg
USOA Hawaii RON 1_00002328.jpg
Now playing
01:03
This Hawaiian couple lived through Pearl Harbor
USOA Hawaii RON 4_00003611.jpg
USOA Hawaii RON 4_00003611.jpg
Now playing
00:52
The past, present and future of Hawaii
Now playing
01:00
The difference between the US and Canada
Now playing
01:12
He left for Canada after Trump was elected
Now playing
10:48
Kamau's epic journey to discover his roots (Part 1)
Now playing
09:22
The Civil War vet hiding in Kamau Bell's past
Now playing
07:50
Ancestry debunks Kamau Bell's family lore
Now playing
01:17
Kamau discovers his activist ancestor's past
Now playing
01:01
Mind blown: Kamau's dad reacts to Ancestry results
Now playing
01:22
Kamau walks on great-great-grandfather's land
Finding Kamau Ep 2 short 2_00003409.jpg
Finding Kamau Ep 2 short 2_00003409.jpg
Now playing
01:07
Kamau Bell's ancestor fought to end slavery
USOA Alabama RON 2_00000426.jpg
USOA Alabama RON 2_00000426.jpg
Now playing
00:47
Kamau Bell's dad may be more famous than him
USOA Alabama RON 3_00004626.jpg
USOA Alabama RON 3_00004626.jpg
Now playing
01:19
This black woman is proud of Confederate flag
usoa s3 kamau bell bonus massimo lecas_00025417.jpg
usoa s3 kamau bell bonus massimo lecas_00025417.jpg
Now playing
03:42
Official language police exist in Montreal
USOA HBCU RON 2_00010414.jpg
USOA HBCU RON 2_00010414.jpg
Now playing
01:09
What's next for America's HBCUs?
USOA HBCU RON 3_00005118.jpg
USOA HBCU RON 3_00005118.jpg
Now playing
01:00
What you get wrong about HBCUs
USOA Disabilities RON 1_00002902.jpg
USOA Disabilities RON 1_00002902.jpg
Now playing
01:12
She's a top model with muscular dystrophy
USOA Disabilities RON 2_00010722.jpg
USOA Disabilities RON 2_00010722.jpg
Now playing
01:16
Kamau learns what it feels like to be blind
USOA Disabilities RON 4_00002326.jpg
USOA Disabilities RON 4_00002326.jpg
Now playing
01:11
This deaf actor is a legend in show business
usoa s3 kamau bell bonus heather watkins_00021411.jpg
usoa s3 kamau bell bonus heather watkins_00021411.jpg
Now playing
02:50
The activist fighting for disabled people
USOA Gullah RON 1_00003520.jpg
USOA Gullah RON 1_00003520.jpg
Now playing
01:04
How Gullah culture is different
USOA Gullah RON 2_00004019.jpg
USOA Gullah RON 2_00004019.jpg
Now playing
01:04
The Gullah are fighting to preserve their culture
usoa s3 kamau bell bonus robert middleton_00012526.jpg
usoa s3 kamau bell bonus robert middleton_00012526.jpg
Now playing
02:13
The house where MLK wrote 'I Have a Dream'
USOA Gullah RON 3_00004909.jpg
USOA Gullah RON 3_00004909.jpg
Now playing
00:54
The importance of preserving the Gullah language
USOA Gullah RON 4_00004218.jpg
USOA Gullah RON 4_00004218.jpg
Now playing
01:00
Gullah basket weaving is an ancient tradition
usoa sikhs ron 1_00004806.jpg
usoa sikhs ron 1_00004806.jpg
Now playing
01:27
'In America, we can't even get our hate straight'
usoa sikhs ron 2_00003708.jpg
usoa sikhs ron 2_00003708.jpg
Now playing
01:13
What is the Sikh faith?
usoa sikhs ron 3_00004812.jpg
usoa sikhs ron 3_00004812.jpg
Now playing
01:01
He's been bullied at school, but feels lucky to be a Sikh
usoa s3 kamau bell bonus mandeep sethi_00023828.jpg
usoa s3 kamau bell bonus mandeep sethi_00023828.jpg
Now playing
04:24
Meet the Sikh spreading his message through rap
usoa s3 kamau bell bonus sikh rajan gill_00023010.jpg
usoa s3 kamau bell bonus sikh rajan gill_00023010.jpg
Now playing
03:34
Meet the Sikh professor who works as a farmer
USOA Border RON 1_00002016.jpg
USOA Border RON 1_00002016.jpg
Now playing
01:19
Businesses are dying in this Arizona border town
USOA Border RON 2_00002023.jpg
USOA Border RON 2_00002023.jpg
Now playing
00:52
The human cost of America's immigration policy
USOA Border RON 3_00012107.jpg
USOA Border RON 3_00012107.jpg
Now playing
01:23
W. Kamau Bell tries pharmaceutical tourism
USOA Border RON 4_00003209.jpg
USOA Border RON 4_00003209.jpg
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
01:08
The reservation divided by the border
usoa s3 kamau bell bonus ernie charles_00014213.jpg
usoa s3 kamau bell bonus ernie charles_00014213.jpg
Now playing
02:09
The church that played a pivotal role for slaves

Programming note: To learn more about the disability community, watch the upcoming episode of “United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell” on Sunday at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

(CNN) —  

For many with cerebral palsy, the mere thought of running – let alone running a half marathon – would seem like an impossible dream. However, for Justin Gallegos, that dream became a reality on April 29 as he crossed the finish line at the 2018 Eugene Half Marathon in Eugene, Oregon.

A huge NASCAR fan, Gallegos grew up idolizing Dale Earnhardt Jr. However, he could only dream of racing around the track and competing as an athlete. As a child, he had to use a walker to assist him until he was in kindergarten, and he went through years of physical therapy to straighten his gait. Little did he know that he would one day be competing on a race track of his own, in custom-made Nike running shoes.

Justin Gallegos.
Justin Gallegos.
PHOTO: Courtesy of Nike

Gallegos, 20, was born with cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that affects muscle coordination and body movement. There are varying degrees of cerebral palsy and it affects individuals in different ways. Some may be paralyzed and require around-the-clock care, while others may only be partially impaired. According to the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, one in three people affected by cerebral palsy are unable to walk. For Gallegos, while he is able to walk and even run, his path to become one of the few able-bodied people with cerebral palsy to complete a half marathon certainly did not come easily.

“Yes, I had accommodations in school,” says Gallegos. “Yes, I had to go to therapy and doctor’s appointments and meetings in school to address my disability. But at home, my parents treated me like I was a normal kid. The mentality in my home, it was never, ‘Oh, my kid has a disability. We need to look for handouts, or whatever should we do?’ I think the reason I am where I am today is because of my parents. They don’t look for excuses, and they treated me like my disability wasn’t there.”

Gallegos running on a track.
Gallegos running on a track.
PHOTO: Courtesy of Nike

That mentality helped give Gallegos the courage to give sports a shot. His father, Brent, played football in high school, so he wanted to follow in his footsteps. However, concerned about the dangers, his father persuaded him to give cross-country running a chance. It was then, as a freshman in high school six years ago, that his passion for running began.

To say that things were tough when he first began to run would be an understatement. He would often come home with cuts, scrapes and bruises on his elbows and knees. His father even bought him kneepads to help protect his joints from the constant wear and tear. Through it all, Gallegos persevered even when his father voiced concerns.

“I never thought about quitting or anything like that – it’s not who I am, and it’s not in my nature,” he tells me. “If something stands in my way, I’ll find a way around it or find a way to deal with it head on. That’s not denying that things were tough in the very beginning. I did fall down a lot and it did hurt.”

Gallegos running in the 2018 Eugene Half Marathon.
Gallegos running in the 2018 Eugene Half Marathon.
PHOTO: Courtesy of Nike

Gallegos had to rewire his body to run. He dragged his feet a lot, which caused him to fall. So he had to learn an entirely different way to move his body, forcing himself to pick up his feet and lift his knees more. Over time, he was able to strengthen his muscles, improve his coordination and fix his gait to the point where he no longer needed those kneepads.

“I would say it took me at least my whole freshman year and going into my sophomore year for me to begin to really improve my stride and my technique,” he says. “It was in my sophomore year that I saw a significant difference, but in regards to falling, once my body was able to pick up on those movements, I started falling less as the years went by and my times dropped significantly.”

Gallegos is enrolled at the University of Oregon where he is studying journalism. A member of the track club, it was there that Gallegos first entertained the idea of attempting to run a half marathon. Through the help of a friend, he was connected with the Nike Sports Lab, where they worked with him on his quest to complete his first half marathon.

“Working with Nike has been a dream come true,” Gallegos says. “It’s definitely more than I ever could’ve expected. At first, I thought they were just going to give me some shoes to try out, but it turned into something more, where they actually wanted to bring me onto the project and hear my voice and opinions and figure out from an actual disabled person’s standpoint how we can make this shoe better.”

Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 35 FlyEase.
Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 35 FlyEase.
PHOTO: Courtesy of Nike

As a forefoot striker, Gallegos puts significantly more pressure on the front of his feet, which causes his shoes to wear down at a much quicker pace. This is common among many disabled people, so the team at Nike focused on reinforcing that area to allow for more cushioning and durability while also helping with stability. Nike also offers a special series of shoes called FlyEase, which swaps the laces out for a zipper-and-strap system to make it easier for people like Gallegos to get in and out of his shoes.

“I’m not doing this just for me,” says Gallegos. “It means a lot knowing that I have a say and a voice representing the shoes that potentially thousands and thousands of disabled people are going to be putting on their feet. I have a tremendous opportunity here.”

Gallegos did his part, ramping up his training and averaging close to 30 miles a week. In total, he logged over 250 training miles while preparing for the Eugene Half Marathon, and he set two goals for himself: to finish the race and to complete it under two hours. Things were certainly not easy, as he battled foot cramps at points throughout the race, which forced him to slow down to let his legs relax and to catch his breath. He hit a wall near the 11-mile marker, where things began to get really tough. However, he would not give up, pushing through to get to the finish line.

Gallegos proudly showing off his medal after completing the 2018 Eugene Half Marathon.
Gallegos proudly showing off his medal after completing the 2018 Eugene Half Marathon.
PHOTO: Courtesy of Nike

While he fell short of breaking the two-hour mark, clocking in at 2:03:49, he had a clear message that he wanted to share with the world: “It doesn’t matter what others say or do, your only limit is your mind!”

Running a half marathon was the toughest thing he’s ever done, but it was also the most gratifying. “I was very happy,” Gallegos says of crossing the finish line. “I put in so many hours of training for this. I committed myself to this, and I made a goal and I made it happen.”

With a half marathon under his belt, Gallegos has his sights set on eventually running a full marathon. But he doesn’t plan to stop there, as he ultimately wants to represent the United States as a Paralympian.

“It means a lot to be able to call myself an athlete,” Gallegos says. “I worked very hard to get to where I am today. I set out on this journey to show that you are not defined by your body – you are only defined by your mind. So, I believe everyone has the capability of being an athlete.”