On Sunday 10th May ‘Team Wheely’ took on the Hereford half marathon. The team comprised of two able bodied runners Reeny and Liam along with three wheelchair users Julie, Elliot and our instructor Kris. Originally there was to be a fourth wheelchair member to the team, sadly Lisa had to withdraw midway into training due to illness but hopes to take on other events later in the year.
A half marathon is quite a big event to take on for most people and like a full marathon it is something people slowly work towards. Running smaller events such as 5 and 10k’s as preparation in the build up is standard practice before progressing to the half marathon. The team however had set their goals on the half marathon and so they started focusing on training in December 2014. The wheelchair side of the group started training at the local athletics track at Hereford Leisure Centre in addition to their weekly Wheel-Spin classes, slowly increasing the length of there laps with the the two able bodied members of the team training to their own regimes. By March and with only 2 months to go it was time to move training to real terrain to become accustomed to uneven surfaces, cambers and obastacles whilst also increasing the effort and speed ready for the real thing.
The initial speeds clocked when the team first started training were around 3mph on a 400m circuit which by the end of the training period were averaging 4.2mph over a 4 mile run showing really good improvement. This improvement was not only in overall fitness levels but i,proved pushing technique, focus and confidence improving their overall abilities.
The Hereford half marathon route is not a pleasant one as it starts with 4 hills one after another with the final hill being around a 400-500m stretch on a 20/25 degree incline. For the wheelchairs it was a little harder as the start was also on uneven racecourse grass so it was extremely difficult to get into a comfortable rhythm until quite a way into the route. This said the team were determined and commanded the respect of everyone around them, not giving in, stopping or complaining.
Our instructor Kris who was supporting them had recently completed the London Marathon but none of the team had ever done as big an event as the half marathon. In fact the wheelchair side of the team had never done a 10k or even a 5k and the two able bodied runners in the team also faced their first long distance running event. The expectations where high but we had faith in them to achieve it and see it through to completion having seen how well they worked during Wheel-Spin and training.
The team successfully completed their first half marathon in 3h 49 minutes only 20 minutes behind the last independent runner. Their final stretch to the finish line was a 400m slog over extremely soft and unforgiving bark which created balance and control issues for the chairs, especially when you consider how tired they would have been at this final stage.
We are extremely proud of our team for their determination to succeed and we know they have left quite a mark on those onlookers and supporters that were there that day. The team raised over £800 for St. Michael’s Hospice who organised this event and unlike the unknown 12 standard wheelchair entrants of the London Marathon, St. Michael’s honoured their efforts and contribution by listing their results as a seperate category Hereford Half Wheelchairs.
Our thanks to St. Michael’s for being so supportive of our entrants and to all the fantstic supporters who were there to keep the team going and to all those people who kindly donated to their cause. It is hoped to further the wheelchair entry numbers next year in this event and further demonstrate that you don’t have to be an elite athlete to experience these events, nor does disability mean inability.
Here is a short video of highlights from Team Wheely’s great day.