An Invitation to Watch My First Wheelchair Race


Firstly, not a race. I mean, everyone else might be racing, but I will be competing only with my own ego, not paying attention to other “runners”, and fully reconciled with the prospect of coming last. My wheeling speed is currently slower than most people’s walking speed. (Not my own walking speed – that is slower still!)

But look, I would love you to be there, watching me finish. Don’t (for heaven’s sake) come for the start – you will be waiting ages! It might be cold, it might rain, and I don’t expect you to wait around. But please, if you can, come to the finish line.

Because most of you (with a couple of exceptions) haven’t seen me in my wheelchair yet. And it’s been a big investment for me – of money, of emotion, of decision-making… It will mean a lot to me that you get to see it in action. I might even let you have a go!

It matters to me that this is the first time, and that it isn’t a sad occasion, that you don’t frown and tilt your head to the side and ask how I am coping, but that you are there to celebrate this with me. It was my decision. It won’t always be my decision, and it hasn’t always been my decision in the past, but for now, I am the one choosing to use the chair. I am choosing comfort over pain. (Actually, I am choosing shoulder pain over foot and leg pain, but the shoulder pain is accompanied by the option to just stop and sit on my arse for a while whenever I choose, so it wins.) So it isn’t a sad day. It is a pragmatic one, a day to celebrate my ability to choose a solution to my problem of mobility, and to opt for a lightweight titanium solution with Schwalbe tyres. (I don’t know what Schwalbe tyres are, but my brother spotted them and seemed impressed, so I am trotting this out as evidence of the fanciness of my new wheelchair, in the hope that you will be equally impressed.)

If all goes well and my arms don’t fall off, or I don’t go careering wheels-first into the road or a bush, this might be the first of many of these events (not races). I miss running; specifically I miss the exhilaration of finishing a run, of crossing a finish line, of completing something I had set my heart on doing. So I am hoping this heralds a new era of goals for me. Unless I fall out. In which case I will confine my Shwalbe-adorned titanium kit to a life of supermarkets and shopping centres and other smooth-floored settings.

So I hope you will be able to come, and that you will feel happy, not sad. And also perhaps a little impressed, because – believe me – it is harder than it looks!


An Invitation to Watch my First Wheelchair Race

This is how I want you to see me –
for the first time
exhausted – not just fatigued –
an agent of my own forward propulsion
clasping onto
the hand of my daughter running beside me –
always beside me.

Crossing not just the finish line
but the boundary between
walking wobbly and wheelchair user;
doing and done-unto;
passivity and action;
reluctant acceptance and determined progress;
diagnosed and living with –
alive with

This is how I want you to see me –
crossing the line.


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