ParaCommonwealth Stories

Long Jump – ParaSport Challenge

Nothing could prepare me for my next challenge as I to embark on trying my hand at the Long Jump.  It was met with anticipation and fear. The anticipation, I was keen to see what I could realistically do and on the other hand was fear of struggling with my functions in my leg muscles.

Darren Ritchie was our coach for this assignment and, effectively, our athlete as well. Darren is now National Events Manager (Jumps and Combined Events) for Scottish Athletics.

His main sporting achievement as a long jumper was a fourth placed finish in the men’s long jump event at the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002. Agonisingly, Darren jumped 7.88 for fourth when the bronze medallist, Kareem Streete-Thompson recorded 7.89, a mere centimetre more.

Born in Edinburgh on February 14 1975 (Valentine’s Day!), Darren is now retired as an athlete, but can reflect on being Scottish Long Jump Champion six times during his career. His personal best was 8.02m. He spent time away from Scotland in both England and Norway.

Also attendance was Shona Malcolm who is the Disability Athletics Development Officer for Scottish Athletics.

We were also joined by Nicola Tennant, who is a Senior Physiotherapist in Neurobiomechanic and Cerebral Palsy. The team have certainly learned alot on this assignment and there no way I could have explained the complications with hyper extension knee and other attributes that affects Cerebral Palsy.

As Darren tried to put me through my paces of warming and stretching my legs muscles, I was struggling to do everything on my left leg. (My Cerebral Palsy affects my left side of the body so the physical efforts is greater than my right side.)

Nicola was beginning to monitor my legs movements and it became apparent that I have spasticity in my left leg. Spasticity is a term that is often used interchangeably with hypertonia.  Spasticity, however, is a particular type of hypertonia in which the muscles’ spasms are increased by movement.

While I was finding this assignment frustrating, I clearly got into the focus orientated mode of aiming to co-ordinate my balance rather than become patronised by everyone looking on. It became obvious to Darren that he had no chance mastering the whole techniques of doing the Long Jump in one day as the complexity of my muscles is too great to deal with.

We just concentrated on me trying to jump from the edge of the sand pitch and even that was a challenge as I didn’t have the stability. Every time, I jumped into the sand, I lost my balance easily, bringing back recollection of me falling in sinking mud in the Amazon five years ago! I just busted out laughing so much that my whole face went into the sand and during the process, the sand entered my mouth! Yuck! At least, I do laugh at myself in funny situations which tells me that sports should be taken as enjoyment too.

It was truly my toughest Parasport by far and probably always will be. It was far more complicated than I thought it would.

Darren puts it to me, it was brainstorming through a puzzle to understand my functions along with the effects of Cerebral Palsy. I learned to master small techniques atleast.

It was a great day had by all and I know the team will be beaming about this assignment for a while to come!


ParaCommonwealth Stories

A Pair of Trainers

What a difference it makes when you share your concerns about doing one of the toughest challenge in my ParaCommonwealth journey to date.

I considered my next challenge of attempting the Long Jump to be the toughest by far because there is a lot to think about with your body functions: run, step-run-up on strongest leg and jump forward  heading towards the sand pit. In theory it may sounds easy but in physical term for someone with Cerebral Palsy it must be a hard sports to master in a short time.

I have a hyper extension knee with my left knee and it was that reason which prompted me to undertake the assignment on a serious note as much as the enjoyment of showcasing how hard it is to do the Long Jump with a disability which immediately trigger you at a disadvantage because of bio mechanical difficulties.

While I may have find reassurance from Darren Ritchie and Shona Malcolm, the slight weakness in my left thigh can slipped back unintentionally and to some extent, I have no control over so therefore seeking advices from health professionals was my only way forward of feeling content and secure about how to manage my left leg during the athletics assignment.

A visit to the Southern General’s WESTMARC (West of Scotland Mobility and Rehabilitation Centre) being seen by Nicola Tennant and Nikki Munro my Orthotic Consultant who deals with my AFO (Ankle Foot Orthosis), two of them came up with a cunning plan that may alleviate my issues.

The two Nicolas asked me to run down the corridor and I can run because my knee is in running motion and hyper extension knee is less however, my foot drop still remains there. Nicola Tennant suggested tapping my knee and insert wedges over a knee brace as the knee brace would have restricted my movement.

Meanwhile, Nikki Munro, suggested I purchase a pair of trainers. Anyway, purchase a pair of trainers and Nikki will put high heel wedges in my trainers to make my knees go into bent position and this may help me run better however, I was reluctant to try this because I rarely walk in high heel shoes due to my balance co-ordination. After much discussions, we thought we would try it because it may help with other sporting challenges. When you work in the profession of Orthotics and Physio, it very much trying and seeing what works best as everyone has individual needs.

Just to give me a feel to what it would like, Nikki attached block high heel wedges to my shoes and I really felt the effect of my knee bending!

I can finally say that I am a lot happier and growing in confidence about attempting this Long Jump  assignment. Even Nikki commented “that this ParaCommonwealth journey/challenge is up my street as I like basking the barriers and we need people like you (Julie) to work alongside the allied health professionals as individuals with these fuctions and bio mechanical issues know best and can work as part of a team to improve the overall situation.

To recap, Nicola along with my Orthotic consultant, they assessed my walking etc so I can run as it in running motion to some extent however to be sure that the knee is in line with the bio-mechanical alignment, we are going to use tapping similarly to kinesiology tape and wedges. 

It is now such a nice feeling knowing that you’ve address the root of the problem with professionals in a specialised field. I must also point out that I am incredibly fortunate to have partnership of Nicola and Nikki who will do whatever they can to ensure that I can participate in sports fluently. A first class service!

Here are my prototype trainers sliced opened and raise my height in the heel. Now I am beginning to walk in high heels!!

The reason why the Orthotics have done this is due to my hyperextension in my left knee, we felt with ‘high riser’ on the heels would help the biomechanical signal of knees and make my knees go into bending position rather than spin backwards and have insole underneath the shoes.

I cannot tell you how much the relentless challenge it has been for the Orthotics to customized an AFO because of my unique gait pattern. Over the last two years, I have been through fifteen AFO as the constant change in my muscles tone as I keep up my remarkable fitness, i.e. take my 10K for example.

The question always poised where ‘do you’ strike the balance of becoming fit in my case? Do fewer exercises and encounter muscular problems and deformity or do take an approach to stay physically active. Endless debates and that calls for more clinical research too!)

ParaCommonwealth Stories

Glasgow RaceRunning

Have anyone heard of RaceRunning, do many of you know what this sports is all about?

Julie caught up with Caroline Johnston, who works for Glasgow Life in the capacity of disability sports to find out more about this new sport which has got everyone talking about in the world of disability sports.

Caroline who recently won Evening Times’s Sports Volunteer of the Year earlier this year says “Race Running in Glasgow was piloted by ACE of Ayr in 2011 at the Glasgow Sports Multisports session at Scotstoun on a Friday night. From there, bikes were bored from ACE and youngsters trained regularly at the Red Star athletics sessions on a Monday and Thursday at Crown Point. Also, Neil’s Wheels – a local childrens’ charity, received an awards for all grant to buy three bikes and start a club at a separate time. This club started October 2012 and meets regularly on a Saturday morning at Scotstoun stadium”

RaceRunning was established back in 1991 which signalled a change for people born with Cerebral Palsy. In the early, RaceRunning (RR), Cerebral Palsy athletes could now start running forward instead of backwards. It wasn’t long until records were broken and CPISRA which became aware of this new sport and nearly more than twenty years later, the first international RaceRunners camp was held in Denmark, and since then thirteen countries currently endorse and participants taking part in RaceRunning has risen steadily.

Today, RaceRunning is now an international disability sport in which children and adults compete with running bikes on an athletics track. Events range from 40m to 3000m. Competitors are classified based on their disability and race against other competitors in their class.

The RaceRunning bike is not like any bike; it is a three wheeled bike with no pedals which supports you as you walk or run. The bike can be used by children from 3-4 years through to adulthood. It is predominantly suitable for those with Cerebral Palsy, although it is also suitable for those with Muscular Dystrophy, Parkinsons Disease and other disabilities that affect mobility and balance. The low centre of gravity and frame design offers good stability and poise whilst running or walking. The saddle unit counter-acts lateral sway and also can be used as a seat when resting.

The success’s story of RaceRunning in Scotland belongs to Ayrshire’s boy, Gavin Drysdale, who won Young Scots Sports Award in 2012. When asked about the social enjoyment of this unique sports, he says “I can’t talk very well it is hard to be involved and to make friends. RaceRunning has helped me with a lot of things from getting me out and about, getting exercise and making new friends. These things are important for everyone but it can be much harder if you have a disability”.

Every Saturday mornings and alternate Friday evenings, Caroline devotes her time to running the Glasgow RaceRunning session which is based at Scotstoun Leisure Centre. Caroline, is so passionate about striving to create opportunity for young people and participation in sports. She was recently named ‘Evening Times’s Sports Volunteer of the Year’. She says “It took me a while to realise that I was volunteering to be honest. It is an honour that should also go to those who have helped and supported me achieve what I have. My main aim was and always will be to facilitate access to sport for all”.

With the enthusiasm about RaceRunning growing in Scotland, it won’t be long till it becomes an established sport on the world platform in years to come.