From Obstacles to Obstacle Racing
Until last year when I started walking, I was never a runner. Even as child before my chronic pain condition started and I was using my wheelchair, I was never a runner. I remember at a school sports day, I must have been about 8 years old and the other children were already at the finish line, as I approached the halfway mark. As the teacher blew her whistle and shouted our commands for cross-country, I would immediately feel a sense of dread. So how did I turn from a child that was unable to even run away from the word ‘running’ to an obstacle course runner?
As a child I was severely overweight and unfit. I loved sport in general and the team element but I never had the endurance, speed or strength to play in the A team. When my chronic pain condition turned me into a full-time wheelchair user, I noticed how much faster I was able to move but also how the attitudes of others would limit my abilities. At school, I was severely bullied and would often be tipped out of my wheelchair. For University, I moved to London and was surprised as to how I was keeping up, as well as overtaking, standard ‘London pace.’ I was adamant to loose my extra weight, in order to allow myself to move my wheelchair easier. I joined a gym and my confidence started to grow and through knowledge, I was able to enter the free weight area and adapt able-bodied movements and exercises. I had connected with the adaptive athlete community and was starting to be a part of a community that I could have never imagined.
A friend of mine decided that he wanted to do a Tough Mudder and I thought that I would also give it a go. Despite not being able to get my foot wet or wear shoes or socks, I completed the course and after over a week in bed in pain, I decided to book into another.
My strength was increasing while my weight was decreasing and physically, I was in a fantastic place. My self-confidence was growing despite my debilitating chronic pain. I decided to look into wheelchair racing as I considered myself to be pretty fast however after a month-or-so of wheelchair racing, it was too difficult with my foot: the wind and the rain at the racing speeds were too much and I subsequently ventured out into the field section of the athletics club. I started throwing the discus and javelin and immediately fell in love.
At this stage, the doctors were adequately convinced that I was ready for amputation and subsequently my training was put on hold while I recovered from my foot amputation. Unfortunately, my recovery did not go as planned and I had to go privately to receive support in prosthetics. As it had taken 6 years of planning for my amputation and fighting with doctors, I had undertaken a lot of research into the possibilities of amputees both with and without prosthetics. Now I was fitter, I was adamant that I was going to prove the bullies wrong from my school years and I was going to run. I didn’t care what speed I would be or how far I would go but I was determined.
After my amputation, my energy levels rocketed and I had the required energy to be able to train harder. I bulked up heavily and decided that I wanted to enter another Tough Mudder, given that the mud, water and wind wouldn’t now be an issue. I completed the course on an iWalk (a leg brace-type device where weight is distributed through the knee) as I was unable to use my prosthetic and eventually moved up to walking with a prosthetic and crutches.
I was ready to progress and very kindly, I was given the support of Blatchford with a Blade XT (running blade) to allow me to run. Just two days after reciving my running blade, I decided to take it out for a 10-12 mile run in a Tough Mudder. Unsurprisingly, my time on course started to dramatically reduce and I started to enjoy the experience at a completely different level. At the start of the season, I had finished the course in about 7/8 hours whereas by the end of 2017, my personal best was 2.5 hours.
People used to run past me and pat me on the back, telling me how I was an ‘inspiration.’ I’m now able to out-run those individuals and keep up with my other running buddies. I entered this community, as with the Asics Frontrunner community, that I don’t want to let go.
Entering the Asics Frontrunner team was really the first time that I felt I could classify myself as a runner. I had this image in my head of the likes of Usain Bolt or Paula Radcliffe while in reality everyone can be a runner. Whether you’re going for a 10k PB in two hours or 30 minutes, it’s about whether you class yourself as a runner.
Despite years of obstacles, I decided to take on more obstacles through obstacle course racing. After all, isn’t life just one big obstacle?