After ALS Diagnosis, Kyle Brown Fights to Race

Watch Brown's inspiring story at the world premiere of the 2021 Ironman 70.3 World Championships on Jan. 27.

Photo: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

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When most people imagine a person with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS, they picture someone in the late stages of ALS, with paralyzed muscles and trouble breathing. They don’t picture someone triumphantly running across the finish line of an Ironman 70.3 world championship race. But triathlete Kyle Brown is changing that.

While training for an Ironman in May 2021, Brown began to notice something wasn’t quite right. Brown couldn’t quite place his finger on it, but as best as he could tell, the muscles used for speaking seemed to become dysfunctional. To him, Brown’s speech felt slurred, even though those close to him swore they heard no changes. Out of an abundance of caution, Brown visited his doctor. ALS was quickly ruled out—there was no way he could be doing any triathlon race with the condition, much less performing at a high level. Only a few weeks prior, he had qualified for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship. Surely, he was fine.

That assumption turned out to be wrong. After his concerns were dismissed by his doctor, his symptoms escalated: his speech continued to decline, and the muscles in his upper body began to twitch. After a desperate search for answers, it was confirmed: Brown had an aggressive and terminal form of ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The disorder is marked by gradual and progressive worsening over time; most people with ALS eventually lose the ability to walk, dress, write, speak, swallow and breathe, and their life span is often shortened.

The news was shocking to the 51-year-old triathlete, who had considered himself to be in the best shape of his life. All of that would be taken away, and soon. Determined to make the most of his remaining time and health, Brown set out to seize the day: he married his longtime love, Colleen, and created a list of experiences he wanted to have while he still could. At the top of the list: Race the Ironman 70.3 World Championship.

Learn more about Brown’s story and watch his inspiring race in the world premiere of the 2021 Ironman 70.3 World Championships, available exclusively on Outside TV, the Outside TV app, and here on Triathlete.

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