When keen runner Chris lost his leg in a motorbike accident he was determined to keep running. Last year he ran the Royal Parks Half Marathon for Scope and in this blog, he tells us why it’s such an amazing experience.
Getting back into running was a long journey. One of the first books I read after the amputation was Chris Moon’s autobiography. It got me excited about the possibility of running again!
The training does takes longer but don’t let that stop you. Get in touch with other people with a similar impairment and find out what’s possible. I learned that the right prosthetic makes all the difference. The first time I tried a pylon prosthetic I was dubious but we went to the running track, fitted the leg and I broke my para-athlete 400 meter record within about 10 minutes!
The Royal Parks is such a beautiful route
Last year I did the Royal Parks for Scope. I love those parks and used to train in them when I worked in Central London. It was good to go back. Despite losing my leg, I haven’t changed inside. I’m still the same person, life goes on and it can be as enjoyable. It’s just a new normal. I like to challenge myself and I’m always thinking “what can I take on next?”
It really is a beautiful run and the autumn weather was perfect – a beautiful, still, chilly morning with glorious sun rising over the trees. It took a while to get going because of the number of runners but once I got going, I relaxed and settled into a nice rhythm past Buckingham Palace. As well as the parks, you pass so many amazing London landmarks. They were familiar to me from years working in Central London offices and running at lunchtimes. Memories flooded back.
All the support spurs you on
With my right leg doing all the work I find uphill gradients take their toll so I eased up a little. Then I spotted the Scope supporters at their cheer spot and exchange shouts with them which spurred me on! I had my name printed on my vest and get lots of personal encouragement. At the halfway point, I saw that I had three minutes in hand, so I was feeling pretty good!
Just after 10 miles a runner suddenly brakes in front of me and I lose my footing. I almost save myself but eventually lose it and fall heavily on my right knee and forearm. Many hands lift me to my feet – I think I’m okay and I walk for about a minute, testing my body. There are lots of concerned spectators and runners who call to me. The camaraderie is great.
It’s less than a straight mile to the finish. I push myself and enjoy the cheering of the crowds for the last few hundred metres to the finish banner. And there is my wife, Denise, with that big smile, just past the finish line.
We called in at the Scope tent to see our friend Nicola Gale in the events team and then it was time to tackle the journey home to a long, hot bath and an even longer nap. Thanks to everyone’s support I raised £668 for Scope, beating my fundraising target of £300 and I beat my time target of 2 hours too! It was an amazing experience. If you’re thinking about doing it, don’t hesitate to sign up with Scope!
Kris is the founder of Wheely Good Fitness, which offers exercise classes for both disabled and non-disabled people in Herefordshire.
On the weekend, he and a group of 32 people, headed to Dorney Lake in Berkshire to take part in the Superhero Triathlon – the first fully accessible triathlon of its kind.
Here, Kris tells us about his experiences of the event, attitudes towards disability in sport and why sport for all is so important.
There is an assumption that just because someone is disabled they’re not going to want to do sport, which has an impact on the opportunities available.
Unless you live in a main city, there’s not really a lot going on. If we took away the need to segregate, everything would be accessible to everybody and we could all go to our local leisure centres and take part in whatever it is they are running. I run mixed ability classes and there is no need to segregate at all.
Health and safety is always used as an excuse. To me, health and safety is one of the most patronising things used to discriminate against disabled people. London Marathon, for example, only allow 12 places for standard wheelchair entries on the grounds of health and safety. It’s absolute nonsense. They can allow a guy to run in a tumble drier but people who use a wheelchair every day of their life are “not safe”.
Accessibility shouldn’t be something we have to fight for. Disability sport should be given the same amount of precedence as mainstream sport but you don’t see a lot of it and when you do, the coverage of it is very different. It’s not seen as being as serious or respected as other sports. It’s a shame. And if you haven’t got a huge demand [for specialist disability fitness equipment] you can’t reduce the production costs which makes it hard for people to get involved. It’s a vicious circle.
My clients like the social aspect of doing sport. Most of the groups become like a little family. They have a drink afterwards and a chat. Their confidence improves – not only from talking to other people, but they also feel they’re achieving things in the class, instead of their impairment being a negative thing.
Things are improving but it’s a slow process
I’ve been running my fitness classes for four years now. Things have improved in accessible sport but it’s an extremely slow process. There are more and more organisations out there organising accessible bikes and equipment hire. So you can tell attitudes are changing. I think disabled kids have an advantage now to grow up with a much more positive attitude towards themselves that people didn’t have 20 or 30 years ago.
We’re starting to see more inclusive events too. There’s Parallel London which is in its second year and that turned out to be really good event. I was really excited as soon as I heard about the Superhero Tri as were many of my clients. There is so much adaptation. The run can be done in a chair, walking or on crutches. The cycle can also be done in a chair, they allow people in power chairs as well. You can also have a buddy compete with you to help with direction, encouragement, support or balance, so everyone can take part.
The Superhero Tri was a great event
We had eight teams altogether and 21 team members. It was a fantastic opportunity for people of all abilities to compete. The event has an understanding of disability so you’re not having to fight to take part, you’re not having to get people to make allowances for you, you are welcomed for who you are and what you can do. They’re saying “you tell us what you need in order to take part” – that’s what’s so good about it.
I was excited to take part. The only thing I was apprehensive of was trying to get that many people together at the same time, without anyone dropping out. The majority of people were really excited, there are a few I could sense were apprehensive, but they really wanted to do it.
I tried to put teams together of people who work well together in my fitness classes, or socially, so they can encourage each other and feel good about their achievements. Whilst it is a competition and it’s timed, to me and many of the team, it’s really about enjoying it and doing the best you can and saying ‘I did it’.
Most of those taking part hadn’t done anything like this before. There’s a mixture of abilities – some are quite confident and some are new to my classes and actually this was a huge step for them to take. It’s a nice journey for everyone. It takes time to start believing in yourself and realising what you’re capable of.
It was a great day, the weather held for us and everyone managed to beat the nerves and turn up. Everyone did well giving everything they could to be the best they could be. The atmosphere was fantastic and everyone was high spirited and extremely supportive of one another.
We were asked by Channel 4 who were filming the event to demonstrate our Wheel-Fit aerobics class for their highlights programme due to air next weekend which was a nice surprise for everyone and, despite being between races, we managed to squeeze in 10 minutes between transitions to demonstrate what the class was about.
I’ve been involved with Scope ever since I started running fitness classes. If I’m doing anything for charity, I do it for Scope. Scope is a leading force in changing ideas and perceptions of disability and leading the way to a positive future for disabled people.
Sport is a powerful tool encouraging people to seek their true potential, capabilities and discover their strengths and weaknesses, whilst creating and expanding social lives for a more proactive and rewarding life. It’s not just for the elite, the super fast or the super fit, it’s something for everyone, that can benefit everyone through improved fitness, well being, confidence and social skills.
Sport can be empowering and character building and should be open to all. It’s time to remove the barriers and discrimination and open up the world of sport to everyone of all abilities and all backgrounds on an equal footing.