Achilles New Zealand aims to provide people who live with disabilities the opportunity to participate in mainstream local, national and international events and ensure social connection within the community.
Suzanne Hardie, the Chapter Leader at Achilles Tauranga, explains how Achilles is building a strong relationship with parkrun.
Achilles Tauranga is a group of athletes with physical, sensory or intellectual disabilities and are supported by volunteer guides. parkrun gives our athletes the opportunity to be part of a community event, and we know what we’re going to get as it’s 5k every time.
Over the past couple of years, the group has built a strong relationship and we are now eager to achieve our goals and enter running and walking events around New Zealand, and ultimately compete in the New York Marathon! parkrun gives us that continual 5k base training which compliments our event goals perfectly in a supportive and fun environment.
I got involved when I worked in the travel industry and escorted groups of athletes to the New York Marathon in 2015 and 2016. There was a group of about 20 from Achilles NZ and I developed a relationship with Peter Loft, co-founder of Achilles New Zealand.
When Covid hit, and I was unemployed from the travel Industry, I was able to give more time to volunteer as a guide and soon after as Chapter Leader for Achilles Tauranga. I’m now taking on the national administration role for Achilles NZ to cover maternity leave and look forward to being part of some positive changes and growth for the charity.
A lot of our members started off being quite shy and now they’re branching out and meeting up in different ways, and it’s made them get out into the community more. Achilles might be their first step to help with their mental health and wellbeing.
We have a weekly track session but on Saturdays they know it’s 5k. Some run and some walk. We’ve also volunteered as marshals at this awesome community event.
parkrun is somewhere where it doesn’t matter what your ability is. It’s about participation. You feel good for the rest of the weekend. The Run Director always introduces us as many of our athletes are vision impaired and walk/run with a guide, hence the bright shirts!
We attended the Hawkes Bay Marathon for the 10k and we are now building up to the 21k at Queenstown in November.
We’re always looking for more people to get involved. You have to be selfless. It’s about the athlete and their goals. Some people are daunted by guiding but generally low vision athletes are good at picking up their feet. My daughter is 14 and she does it.
By being part of parkrun, the community gets to know and support people who live with disabilities and it means so much to our athletes to be included.
Achilles Tauranga Chapter Leader
Photos courtesy of Jan Sherley
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