Through the Eyes of an Experienced Wheelchair Contender
Well its 4 o’clock in the morning, just 2 hours before the start of the 2016 Gold Coast Marathon. Racing Wheelchairs is my sport and it is fair to say I have a love hate relationship with it.
It’s not a sport that comes easy to me and at times it is a real battle to get fit enough to be competitive. I cannot deny though that I love the feeling after a good training session and especially the feeling after a win.
It was 19 years ago that I first competed in a race chair at the Gold Coast – in the 21km half marathon. Although my finish time was not fantastic I believed that I would represent my country at a Paralympics one day. Fueled by the encouragement of the national coach, I trained hard. Unfortunately that dream has never become a reality but not from lack of trying.
My paraplegia has come with side effects that can greatly affect my health; forcing me into bed full time for up to 12 months. Although this can be seen as the biggest hurdle to my sporting dreams, it has not stopped me from giving it a red hot go when I am fit. And that is where I find myself this morning. Up nice and early and full of anticipation for 42km of energy sapping physical and mental torture.
My aim – a good time to prove to myself that I can be the athlete I always thought I could be. This will be my 4th full marathon and a personal best time would be great. I got to the race line nice and relaxed, my warm up was good and I felt confident. The first 5km was good and fast – I felt in control. After 10km my time was still good and everything seemed to be going to plan. This remained the case right up to the 21km mark.
However around the 25km mark things started to get a lot harder and a lot quicker. At the 30km mark I was really struggling and battling to keep my rhythm. Despite all these difficulties I managed to limp over the line 4 minutes faster than last year – relieved it was over. I expected a better time but am happy that I gave it everything I had. I couldn’t sleep for 2 days afterwards my body ached so badly.
As tough as the race was, as soon as I finished my motivation returned. I started working out what I can do at training to improve for next year. Yes I am looking forward to staying healthy and racing for another 20 years. Although the idea of representing my country at the Paralympics is no longer realistic, the opportunity to improve my times and maybe win a road race here and there is enough of a motivator for me. And the chance to catch up with old friends and make great new ones far out-ways the inevitable failures.