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News - 23rd February 2021

George Poniatowski lives with Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia, which impacts his ability to walk.


When George was learning to use a manual wheelchair his GP suggested he join her at Torrens parkrun in Adelaide to improve his technique and make new friends, and 114 parkuns later he hasn’t looked back.


When I started at parkrun I was struggling with maintaining my physical mobility. My ability to walk with anywhere near a normal gait (step or stride) was hampered by my Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia. This led to a walking speed of less than 1km/hr and an increased risk of stumbling, tripping and falling.


My disability is mostly concerned with extreme stiffness in my legs. The main treatment is exercise, massage and stretching plus pharmaceuticals to relieve the stiffness. I generally walk in an awkward, slow stumbling gait similar to a very old or drunk person. Walking sticks assist me to walk.


I tend to use a manual wheelchair instead of walking with sticks for longer distances.


My GP does Torrens parkrun and she personally invited me to try a “parkrun push” when I was getting used to my manual wheelchair. She explained what was involved and directed me to the parkrun website and how to register.


Taking part in parkrun in a manual wheelchair provided the opportunity to go much faster than my 1km/hr walking pace and helped increase my cardiovascular health.


I had to learn some basic wheelchair operating skills and I did some practice on the Torrens parkrun course. At first it took me around 70 minutes to complete the 5km, which meant I had to consult with my GP because my disability does cause me some bladder issues and I wanted to make sure that it could hold up for the duration of the event.


At my first parkrun I was the final person to finish but I enjoyed being out, social and involved in an activity. Over time I started making acquaintances, most people quickly learned my name and were talkative. I was able to improve my time and I wasn’t last all the time! I managed to improve my technique and improved the setup of the wheelchair. My personal best time is now 42 minutes which I set at Seacliff parkrun.


I do 5km, 7km and 10 km pushes in the wheelchair for fun and recreation. I occasionally do the 7km push to the gym, a 90 minute gym session and the 7km push back, weather permitting. I have seen a huge increase in my speed and endurance going for a push in the wheelchair.


“I am not in a family and I live alone. Loneliness is unfortunately a very common reality for single disabled people.”


parkrun has had a very positive effect on my energy levels, confidence, fitness, friendships, eating and sleeping habits. I enjoy going for a social coffee experience after parkrun and I also enjoy volunteering. On several occasions I have been the Tail Walker, who volunteers to travel behind everyone walking and running the course while offering encouragement and support to participants.


My aim in 2021 is to improve my parkrun times through improved pushing technique and improved wheelchair setup and I have a goal of completing parkrun in less than 40 minutes.


I am also a parkrun tourist and do parkruns when I visit family in WA, NT and NSW. I may have a better chance of getting in below 40 minutes on the relatively flat Shelley course in Perth!


George Poniatowski
parkrunner A3884862


GeorgeP Darwin

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