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By Disabled People for Disabled People

Tuesday, 11 April, 2023

How Frame Running got me moving again By Julie McElroy

Six years ago, I was robbed of my mobility following a traumatic accident. I also have cerebral palsy, which affects my walking and co-ordination, along with speech and hearing impairments. I wear two hearing aids on a daily basis. Prior to my accident, I was involved in a variety of volunteer roles, physical challenges, cycling, swimming, assisting in the leadership of excursions for those with disabilities, Duke of Edinburgh Award ambassador, and many other activities. I understood how important it was for my disability to be physically active. The accident had a significant impact on my ability to maintain this level of devotion to my fitness, with the constant pain having a noticeable demoralising effect on me.

Three years ago, I started looking into adaptive sports that would allow me to become involved with sports again. My neighbour Nicola is a physiotherapist who has worked with athletes with disabilities. She suggested I try frame running and seated throws, and signposted me to Victoria Park Glasgow Athletics Club. Frame running (which was previously known as RaceRunning) is an athletic discipline for disabled athletes or ‘racerunners’. Athletes use a running bike – a three-wheeled frame with a saddle, body support and most notably, no pedals. The club is based at Scotstoun Stadium and leisure centre, where I had been using the gym for last sixteen years. It’s four minutes from my doorstep in the car. I was apprehensive about trying the adaptive sport of frame running as the impact of the injury left me in chronic pain and prone to feeling nauseous. My confidence was also diluted too.

When Nicola and I met Gordon Innes, a coach at Victoria Park Glasgow AC, it was a door into the unknown of being able to go on a frame runner and build up trust, with Gordon understanding my needs and capabilities. Two years later, Gordon and I have built a formidable pathway to enjoy my freedom on my own frame runner, and we train regularly together at the Scotstoun track.

It wasn’t long before I volunteered to secure over £14k of grant funding for the  club to buy some frame running trikes. Gordon relished the opportunity of having  athletes with physical disabilities – and his perseverance and hard work have  paid off. It has also required discipline from me in keeping myself pain free and  the frame runner gives me that relief. I feel very fortunate to have met another  outstanding individual in Gordon, who is generous with his time, a wealth of  experience and empathy that he could work with my challenges. He has helped  rebuild and shape my next chapter in my life. My future is brighter.

Frame running has given me freedom, and I access the track on a daily basis. The frame runner compensates for the challenges I faces in keeping myself fit. It’s been a game changer to be able to enjoy recreational pursuits again. The challenges of frame running are the specialist equipment itself – my frame runner was custom-made in Denmark. After a conversation with Gordon, it was suggested that I would be better suited to having my own frame runner, and looking back, it was one of the most expensive decisions I’ve ever made, but  would be key to keeping me mobile.

Eighteen months later, after Gordon improved my technique on the frame runner, I took my frame running venture further to join the club’s jogscotland group, Victoria Park Road Runners, at the Victoria Park parkruns. I wanted to experience the camaraderie with fellow runners. Parkruns offer inclusivity in the community and everyone is supportive and encouraging. The terrain is different from track sessions but it is good stamina and endurance workout. Presently, I don’t train with the Victoria Park Road Runners as it is too dangerous on pavements which aren’t suitable, however with lighter nights coming, I hope to join them on their own park runs in the evenings. I’m an advocate of equality, inclusion and accessibility and am keen to ensure that people with disabilities such as frame runners are part of mainstream events. It is about working with organisers and educating people what is realistically possible and feasible. I’m keen to improve the integration of frame running into events. Clubs across Scotland are good at including athletes with disabilities so running events should follow suit.

I’m now keen to explore what other sports I can get involved with. Recently, I was asked if I would take my frame running exploits to another level by doing the Glasgow Kiltwalk in April, and I jumped at the opportunity! The funds raised will go to the club, to buy a new para throws chair.

Joining the club has been a lifeline for me, as I’ve found new ways to become involved with sports again through adaptive sports. To anyone else in the same situation, I’d say be bold and join your local running club!

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