They say you should never regret anything. We would be lying if we said that at several points along this journey, there haven’t been moments where we’d wished we hadn’t taken this on.
Our initial wheelchair training took place thanks to the extremely generous support of the Weir Archer Academy. At their fantastic all-weather facilities, Patrick and I had found our place to train.
The only problem was the distance. From leaving work to getting home after training, it was a six or seven-hour round trip. Training was on a Wednesday night, the middle of the working week. I remember one Wednesday particularly. Work was hectic - last-minute meetings in the afternoon, documents to finish before the next day. But we had to train. I left work early, with the nagging knowledge that somehow between that evening and the next morning I still had a piece of work to finish and send for legal approval.
All fine when you get to the track. You can forget about work, cross that bridge later tonight. But then things start going wrong: pumped for the training, I get in and immediately realise something isn’t right. On a racing wheelchair, there is a mechanical bar towards the front of the chair that controls steering. The steering on my chair has completely gone. No matter how hard I tried, the chair lurched horribly to the left, making movement impossible.
We tried, and pushed and adjusted. No improvement. As always, we were then forced to ask the parents and volunteers at the Weir Archer Academy - the people who give their time week in, week out to supporting the young disabled athletes at the club - to help us. These are people who are doing serious training, who have lots to get on with, and we have to ask for help. After some kind intervention, some long examination, and then some adjustment, I’m back in my chair. Half an hour has gone by, and we’ve lost valuable training time. It’s already later than we wanted to leave for the train home, but we’ve come to complete a target number of laps and we’re going to do it.
Patrick and I have one core principle we always stick to in our training: we set targets before every session, and always complete them, no matter what. So it’s back on the track, and pushing anti-clockwise through the rain once more. Less than 400 metres later, disaster. A loud pop, and the inevitable when I look down: a puncture. Changing a tyre on a wheelchair, for novices like us, is no easy task. We’d been through it before, and it was the last thing we needed: more lost time, more lost training and more inconvenience for the Weir Archer team as we inevitably needed to ask for their help.
The only difference was that this time, the vast majority of people had already left, or were packing to go home. The floodlights were still on, but our help had gone. We sat on the track, fiddling with the damaged wheel. Fumbling fingers, desperately trying to lever the new tube and tyre back in to place. We each tried. We both tried. We each tried again. Pinched skin and aching fingernails. Tyre still lying uselessly on the ground, wheelchair upturned like a carcass on the track. The floodlights were now going off, and time had slipped: we weren’t going to get him until midnight. Not only that we had failed. Failed to do what we had said we would always do: complete our training target, complete our target number of laps. No option but to collect gear, pack up and trudge back to the station.
More than two hours later, and I’m home. It’s just before midnight and I’m on my computer, completing the document I knew I had to send off before the morning. As I finally finish, I notice that Patrick is online - he’s doing the same, finishing work before the next day.
Of course, it doesn’t take much to realise our frustrations and challenges are pathetically small in relation to the causes we are supporting. We are doing this to raise support and funds for people living with disability in Africa. A place where living with a disability can all too often mean exclusion, extreme poverty and death from preventable complications. That is all the motivation and encouragement we need. Frustration forgotten, challenges pale in to insignificance. Let’s get on with this.
Published by: athlete_1 in Training