A couple of months ago, I ran Crane parkrun in my quest to complete the pirates challenge. What's the pirates challenge I hear you cry? Completing 7 parkruns beginning with the letter C and one starting with the letter R, 7 seas and an Arrrrrr!! (there's lots more to keep people amused, have a look at this fab add on for Chrome/Firefox browsers https://running-challenges.co.uk/).
One thing that Crane parkrun doesn't have is a local cafe, so we decided to visit the cafe at Hanworth parkrun, a mile or so down the road. I knew that some friends were running there that week, so knew we'd know some people in there. It was here I met an amazing young lady, Claudia.
Claudia isn't your average parkrunner. She used to be, running her first 20 or so runs at Bushy park. She then started to have mobility issues and so started to use crutches to get her way round the course. As these issues increased, Claudia started to use a wheelchair to get round. Minor little issues like your legs not working wouldn't stop Claudia from parkrunning.
So it was in a wheelchair that I met Claudia. In chatting to her, I mentioned that my home run was Homewood, where I was Co-ED. Claudia father lives quite close to Ottershaw and he'd run at Homewood and that he had said that she wouldn't be able to get round it in her chair. This is just like waving a red rag to a bull!! We agreed there and then that we would make it happen. No one had ever gone around Homewood in a chair before.
In the intervening couple of months, we both kept in touch whilst travelling around the country completing various parkrun tourism trips, but agreed that the 3rd August would be the day. The weather has been dry (wheelchairs don't really like mud!) and the course was running nicely. Knowing Homewood well, there were two areas of the course that were a little concerning, the infamous Achilles Hill and Rooty row. I walked the course on Wednesday, checking out any areas that I thought may pose an issue to a chair user and I also made a quick video of going up Achilles Hill to send to Claudia so as to give her some idea of the challenge she was taking on. I also trimmed back some of the brambles that had started to encroach on the edges of the course, to allow some of the faster runners more room to pass.
After meeting up with Claudia again this morning at Homewood, we did a quick recce of Achilles Hill, working out the easiest route up it. In short, there isn't one, but it is possible with a little assistance up the steepest and rootiest parts.
Once we'd started, the run itself passed off without any major incidents. It was easier up the hill the 2nd and 3rd time without too many other runners around, as we could pick out the best route up. Rooty row posed a few challenges, with the wheels of the chair sometimes slipping on the numerous roots, but nothing insurmountable. One major advantage of a chair is on the downhill section out of the woods, I couldn't keep up with Claudia as she raced off into the distance down there.
We got round in just over 45 minutes. It was never going to be a PB course, it isn't for any runner/walker/wheeler (Claudia has a chair PB of 20:02 on a flat course). This was all about the challenge and for a remarkable young lady, the chance to prove nothing is impossible, whatever life throws at you.
A big thank you to all the other runners for your support and encouragement on the way round, for those that offered a hand on the trickier sections, for your patience when we may have been blocking the course slightly and for those that stayed to applaud a incredible young lady as she crossed the finish line.
Here is a little more about Claudia's story from the parkrun blog earlier this year:
For completeness, the stats. This week 111 people ran, jogged and walked the course, of whom 18 were first timers and 20 recorded new Personal Bests. Representatives of 16 different clubs took part.
The event was made possible by 19 volunteers:
Michael WAINE • Spencer BATEMAN • Sarah ABBOTT • Kate HICKEN • Jacob THOMAS • James OWEN • Max NICKLESS • Phil STOCKER • Sarah SKERTEN • Steve DYE • Jane STRATFORD • Jo GRAHAM • Dee HARPER • Lisa MCLAREN • Richard JONES • Carly BURLEIGH • Jake MARTIN • Joanne CLARK • Cynthia BOARDMAN
Today, it was a honour for me to assist someone who doesn't know how to say no to a challenge that I thought was impossible and which she proved easily, was perfectly possible!