Wheelchair user Jono Whitehead was recommended parkrun by a good friend and frame runner. Initially hesitant, he arrived to find the tail walker that day was his former maths teacher so felt instantly at ease!
Here he tells us why he wants to see more disabled people at parkrun.
I’m disabled and I heard about parkrun from my friend Tully, who completes parkruns using a frame runner (she is also a gold medal winning para-olympic swimmer). We were looking at parkruns near my house for ones which were flat and tarmacked so that I can use my wheelchair and she can use her frame, and found one nearby.
I wasn’t 100% confident I could push the distance required to do a 5k. I’ve seen Tully and her friend Mike complete it in frame runners (also known as race runners), but it wasn’t until Tully and I went to Bradgate Park in Leicestershire, UK that I pushed enough distance outside to decide it might be possible.
I’ve played wheelchair basketball since September 2021. Playing basketball has helped me build up my fitness, but there’s a significant difference between pushing around on a flat court for a few hours and pushing around a parkrun course, even one which seems flat!
I really enjoyed my first parkrun. When I got there, the person giving the first timers’ welcome was my old maths teacher, so it was great to see a friendly face straightaway! He was also one of the tail walkers, so I knew I could be confident that if something went wrong, I’d at least know someone behind me.
It’s been great to get out into the park and get some exercise. Although both parkruns I’ve done on my own, it’s clear that parkrun is a very social activity, and I’m looking forward to seeing people the next time I go.
Through social media, I have discovered an old classmate of mine was at the most recent parkrun I did, we just didn’t see each other!
parkrun is great if you want to do some physical activity, outside, over a longer distance. If you’re a wheelchair user, I’d recommend it. Just be aware that even when a course is described as flat and accessible, it can still prove to be ‘not that even’ when experiencing it as a wheelchair user! I found myself having to work much harder on one side of my body than the other throughout a lot of the course.
I’d love to see more wheelchair users, frame runners, and other disabled people trying parkrun. I’d recommend anyone to give parkrun a try.
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