Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Wheelchair Athletics at Stoke Manderville

To celebrate winning the logo design competition for Hannah Cockroft (Paralympic Champion and World Record Holder) I went to a British Wheelchair Athletics Association meet at the Stoke Manderville stadium to meet her.

Loads of wheelie athletes. Wheels were everywhere. Racing wheels, standard wheels, some with people in, some without. Wheels were definitely the normal mode of transport. Although various staggers and bum-shuffles were also in evidence and totally unremarkable. The able bodied folks distinctly on the sidelines as the wheelies chatted, compared, competed and achieved.

Racing wheels!! Oh my word. Racing Wheels! I want to play!!

There was the relaxed feel of....something almost like a school sportsday. Picnics and parasols filling up the strip of grass alongside the track.

I'd just arrived and was looking round in a moment of shyness thinking 'what do I do now?' when I heard a voice "Hannah!!" I turned round, and there was Ben's mum! As in, Ben the young VIP wheelchair athlete I'd met at Birmingham last week!

I was instantly absorbed into their group. We cheered Ben on in his races. And guess what? In the 400, he did a Personal Best by 3 seconds - not only that, but his brake had jammed so he got a personal best when pushing against a jammed wheel! A PERSONAL BEST with the BRAKES ON! Well done Ben! Impressed is an understatement.

During the lunch break, Ben (who's debt I shall be in forever) allowed me to borrow his racing wheels. RACING WHEELS! Helmet and glove on, [LEAN FORWARD OR YOU'LL FLIP!]wedged into a seat 3 sizes too small...I was in heaven. Ben's coach took me to the car park [LEAN FORWARD!]. 

Where I promptly left him behind. I was flying!!...until the emergency stop before hitting the cars at the end....erm....now to turn around.....pull slight wheelie, hoik wheels round. Repeat. [lean FORWARD!!!!] About 15 times. Those things are not easy to turn!

Accelerating off again... hang on...that's Hannah Cockroft by her car...she can wait...this is FUN!

I can't describe it. The speed, the power, the responsive-ness of the chair, the 'play at being a pro athlete'. Sheer joy on wheels.

I could have spent hours in that carpark, playing in that chair. But alas, VIP Ben had a race to do so I sat with Hannah Cockroft, a different Ben (Ben R) and Lauren. And chatted. About all sorts. Hannah C might be paralympic champion, but she's totally down to earth.

And Hannah said I had good arm speed. Smug. And she promised to try and find out from 'fount of all knowledge' Joe if there are any wheelie racers near me/racing wheels I might be able to borrow occasionally.

And back to the trackside ready for the next round of racing.

Then I had to leave before my coolvest ran out. Which, incidentally, got a lot of interest from athletes and coaches.  (for more info on my cooling vest, see here). But not before I got a photo of me, Hannah, and a T-shirt with my 'Hurricane Hannah' logo on it.

Oh, and I may possibly have given her a copy of 'You know you've been pushing it when...' on condition that she tells everyone it's awesome and they should buy one. Shameless advertising.

It was a really lovely day, and I plan to go to more events like that in the future. Maybe I'll even race in one some day.

I don't think my joints or heart would let me take up wheelchair racing as a competitive sport, but I intend to find a way to do it as an occasional recreational activity. Please, mystical Joe, find me a way!


  1. Am sooo glad you had so much fun honey! I'm a wheelie who is also a racer and a racing coach so I am totally biased when I say - take up racing!!

    You know you want to ;-)

    Nessa xx

    1. I really want to do it again - I just need to find somewhere and soemone with a chair near enough to Didcot (kinda anyone within the Oxford/Newbury/Reading triangle!


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