16 Sep

Paralympians Not The Only Superhumans

Paralympic logoI was fortunate enough to run the New York Marathon 12 years ago, writes Chris Broadbent. It is an incredible, unforgettable event.

The vast avenues packed with crowds, the endless whooping and hollering, the booming rendition of the star spangled banner at the start-line and the unmatched atmosphere at the finish line in Central Park - it was a day filled with memories that will live with me forever.

But there is one particular recollection that was about more than the event itself. It has stuck with me vividly ever since.

Along with my fellow runners, we were being bussed towards the start line at Staten Island. I was nibbling a thumbnail, anxiously looking out of the window, feeling a little daunted at the prospect of 26.2 miles. That all changed in an instant though when I saw the first participants setting off on their first mile.

They were the disabled competitors setting off half an hour before the rest of the 30,000 hoard charged from the start. One man in particular put it all in perspective for me.

Clearly, he was severely disabled. He was in a wheelchair, with much of his upper body paralysed without use of his arms and limited movement in his legs.

His only means of projecting himself forwards was by taking on the course backwards in his chair. He looked over his shoulder while one foot pushed the road from underneath him a few inches at a time.

Suddenly my worrying all seemed very, very trivial. What’s 26.2 miles to me and my fully functioning body compared to this guy and his physical limitations?

The Paralympic Games are now upon us and they showcase some of the very best sportsmen and sportswomen on the planet. But they are not the only superhumans in disability sport. That guy in New York who I have never met, he’s one.