My name is Amanda Worne. I am 46 years old, a married mum of four, and often it takes me longer to get out of bed in the morning than it does to do a parkrun. But it hasn’t always been like this.
In August 2015 the brakes on my bike failed on a steep hill and I hit a metal post at 50 miles an hour. After lying in a bed of brambles for an hour, a passing cyclist found me.
At the time of my accident I loved my running and being active. I also trained Guide dog puppies for the blind and had literally just finished my degree. That very week I also had an interview for my dream job which was working for Guide dogs. My life was very fulfilling and busy. I considered myself very blessed.
Now lying here in the bushes all I could think about was being found alive and seeing my children again. Nothing else mattered at all. Luckily for me a cyclist came up the hill about an hour later and heard my feeble cries for help. He called for an ambulance and I was rushed to West Sussex Hospital in Brighton. It was here that I was given lots of x-rays and an MRI scan revealed the fact that I would never walk again.
The fact I would never walk again was insignificant. I was alive and so grateful for that fact I could still be a mother to my four children, the most important thing in the world to me, and as a keen runner and triathlete I could still race all my friends in a pink wheelchair.
The first thing I did in hospital after being told the news was to post a smiling selfie on Facebook to inform my friends of my accident. I wanted to tell them not to be sad but to be happy that I was alive as I had nearly died, and that I would indeed race them all in my pink wheelchair. I was overwhelmed with the response from my friends. I received so many lovely messages of support and get well wishes which made me feel so special and loved. It really fuelled my desire to get well and come home as so many people loved me.
I treated my rehab in hospital like I would training for a marathon. I had to be able to sit up in my wheelchair for four hours before I was able to go down to a proper rehabilitation ward and leave the High Dependency Unit. Four hours is a very respectable time to run a marathon so I broke it down into chunks. A parkrun, a 10k, a half marathon and a marathon. It took me four days to sit in my chair for half an hour, which was parkrun achieved.
I also had good days and bad days which also happens when you marathon train. Good runs and bad runs and rest days were also important. Once down on the rehab ward, I made the most of the spinal gym and the facilities provided to complete my journey towards coming home. My mentality as a runner and triathlete certainly helped me no end to remain positive and focused on my rehab. I believe my fitness also saved my life as I truly think my heart would have not coped with the injuries and the duration I lay in the bushes had it not been so strong.
After five and a half months I finally came home, which was a massive milestone and a day I will truly cherish forever. I had missed two of my children’s birthdays, a 16th and an 18th, whilst I was in hospital. I also missed spending Christmas at home as I had to go through a second lot of major surgery on my back as the first lot of surgery I had received hadn’t worked. Being home was just the best feeling ever but it also brought with it many new challenges and hardships.
My house was completely inaccessible. In fact, it was a death trap in many ways, presenting me with many difficult and dangerous obstacles to overcome just dealing with normal everyday life. These included getting up the stairs, cooking and using the bath or shower.
This is where I realised just how much parkrun and my other sport meant to me and how important it was for me to have them in my life to help me cope with all the problems and difficulties I was facing in my new life in a wheelchair. My sport was a form of escapism.
I was so desperate to get back to parkrun. I had started to go about a year before and I loved the social aspect and the fact you could run any way you felt like. You could use it as a warm up to a longer run. You could race around hard for a PB. Or you could just run around with a friend to set yourself up for a Saturday morning. Now it meant so much more. It was somewhere I could go to have some sort of control and normality in my life.
My return to parkrun after my accident was as Run Director, which was really good for my confidence with my new life in my chair. The first time I completed a parkrun in my chair was at Bognor Regis parkrun with some good friends I used to run with before my accident. It was really tough, and I do remember trying to eat a piece of cake at the end but my arms were so tired I could hardly even lift it to my mouth!
I go as often as I can now even though some mornings it takes me longer to get out of bed than it actually does to do the run. Another great friend took me to another local a few months a go. He ran round with his two children in a buggy and I wheeled in my chair. I got a PB that week and the big grin on my face stayed there all day.
parkrun has brought me together with other people on a social level and helped me to forget my disability. It has made me feel strong and not broken. It gives me a purpose to getting up on a Saturday morning. I am also able to help other people become involved too who perhaps doubted themselves and their own abilities. There are so many positives to parkrun on so many levels. I’ve been supported by so many different people in so many different ways.
parkrun is something that anyone can try. It is something that helps us develop as a person both physically and mentally. We don’t have to go every week and we don’t always have to get a PB. So many put so much pressure on themselves to achieve massive goals. This can lead to disappointment and failure. It is important to just have fun sometimes and enjoy ourselves. Life is too short to be worrying about things and trying too hard. I nearly died and having a second chance has taught me so much. I have a very different perspective now on how I live my life.
I have been so fortunate since my accident to try so many different sports and activities I would not have tried if I was still able-bodied. I’ve been kayaking, sailing, skiing and horse riding. I’ve also tried wheelchair racing in a special racing chair and I have a recumbent bike which I go out on regularly with a friend. I did a tandem skydive on the year anniversary of my accident and I am going to Egypt in May to complete my open water dives for my PADI scuba diving qualification. I have also just sent off my application form to learn how to be a pilot. I have such an amazing life it is quite unbelievable sometimes to think of all the things I have done.
Obviously my life isn’t always fun and games. Sometimes people judge you by your chair. At times I am made to feel like a second-class citizen or an afterthought and that can be quite hurtful. My philosophy on life is just to show people that no matter who you are we all have special gifts and qualities. We are all valuable human beings. With the right frame of mind and attitude we can achieve whatever we want that there is always a way to do something but sometimes you just have to maybe do things a little differently. Most importantly we need to believe in ourselves and be proud of our achievements however big or small as they are all relevant to us.
I hope to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in 2018. It’s good to have dreams to drive us forward and such an amazing feeling when these dreams come true but it’s not the end of the world if they don’t. I have also written a book, something else that had I not had my accident I would never have done.
We truly have no idea what lies around the corner. We can only guarantee the here and now. That is why it is so important to live our lives the best we can and parkrun is a really good place to start.
Jess Causley is our Event Director at Yamba parkrun and has recently completed her 100th parkrun. Get an insight into her mindset each week at parkrun… Lead up – parkrun is not a race. I’m not going to race. Not race myself. Not race anyone else. Racing is doing my head in. I’m a long-distance…
parkrun tourist Mark Musk from Wynnum parkrun was the third ‘Time Traveller’ welcomed at Richmond Olympic parkrun – a nickname the local event team have come up with for people who cross the International Date Line to complete two parkruns in one day. Mark recounts his journey to become a Time Traveller… I was…