I have been heavily involved in sports and exercise since diagnosis at the age of 16: that is 17 years of exercise! It seems a long time when you put it like that but since a young age I have firmly believed that prevention is better than cure. I believe that with my healthy lifestyle and can do attitude, I am slowing or halting the progression of my condition, Ataxia Telangiectasia. A healthy diet helps but remember that whatever your ability, where there’s a will there’s a way!
After a few months of strengthening my leg/ankle muscles in my local gym, I could see results on my foot /leg positioning. I heard of a childrens’ gym opening near me that was going to be equipped with upright cross trainers that the user is strapped into. This obviously enthused me and inspired me to look up a walker that I could use. I saw one such thing as a sports walker from a company that I knew of who sells sports equipment. I found out that these sports walkers were called RaceRunners. Within a short space of time and a few internet searches, I had found a local (ish!) club and a whole community surrounding it.
As RaceRunning is a relatively new sport, there are few venues and clubs that offer it. As a person I am very much loyal to the first place that gives me the opportunity. As it happens the Sunday morning club is in Gloucester and is an hour away from my home. I have forged relationships with people at the club including physios, the coach and club members. After a month or so, I heard about a club opening in Bath (also an hour away). I tried this group but unfortunately it wasn’t for me. The Bath RaceRunning club was aimed at children predominantly and had an emphasis on fun which meant no opportunity for progression or competitive training. The club at Blackbridge Track however offered the opportunity to train competitively, social contacts and the benefits of #RaceRunnning. The Coach is very personable and will guide and push for your goals. Both he and I have noticed a positive difference in my technique and strength over the six months of participating.
RaceRunning benefits the whole body and increases psychological and physical wellbeing. There are benefits to be gained to the musculoskeletal system and digestive systems to name a few! It is also beneficial to people with difficulties in coordination/balance as the frame supports some weight. As there is a chest strap, the centre of gravity the user experiences is lower therefore enabling supported movement. As RaceRunning usually occurs as a group session, the social benefits are great.
Personally, I am a full time wheelchair user so it is an amazing feeling to be upright, competing on my feet! In my opinion, preventing the limitations of wheelchair use is preferable to curing problems further down the line and as RaceRunning has lots of health benefits, I’ve found a sport in which I can gain the benefits of being upright whilst doing physical exercise and competing! When I was diagnosed with Ataxia Telangiectasia those around me never would have thought I would do most of the things I can do today. Gaining the physical benefits of RaceRunning has encouraged my goal to walk with a walker. I am so pleased and thankful to have found RaceRunning!
If you have been inspired by Eleanor’s story, please click on the link below to find out more about RaceRunning here in Gloucestershire: