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!)


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.

The Funny Side of Lawn Bowls

One particular night is one that I won’t forget in hurray, thanks to the true friendship with Frazer Paton.

We decided on a much needed catch-up as both us have been incredibly busy lately that days run into weeks on end and we realize that we must do ‘dinner’ as we thoroughly enjoy each other company. The night was a testament of gratification, laughter, silliness etc.

Frazer was interested to know what I’ve been up to on ParaCommonwealth journey and how much a profound impact this journey had on me personally as its broaden my horizon and potentials.  I infilled him about the pleasure and enjoyment of the exposure of ‘Lawn Bowls’ lately!

Everyone knows what ‘Lawn Bowls’ is?!! Meanwhile, I was telling Frazer about ‘Lawn Bowls’ and the people I’ve come into contact with, the hopes and desire of Garry (a CP athlete) hoping to complete in the Parasport, Glasgow2014, ‘Lawn Bowls’ and I also went onto say that I was given ‘Junior Bowls’ because my hands are small and the big bowls are gigantic!

It seems everything I said up until now has been swimmingly followed until Frazer started quizzing me about ‘Lawn Bowls’! He asked where about at Kelvingrove can you play and how often can you go along and play. I said ‘You can go to Kelvingrove and it is open from 12 noon each day and it cost nothing to play’. Clearly, Frazer looked lost, he couldn’t believe that you could go along each day for free, something clearly wasn’t adding up in the way I had explained it and his facial expressions still continued to confuse me!

Frazer asked for clarity in what I said firsthand ‘Lawn Bowls’! LOL (Laughing Out Loud), he thought I had said something along the lines of ‘Strongbow’ (cider) or Long Bow which is used to Bow Arrow/Archery!  When I repeated myself in what ‘Lawn Bowls’ was all about and did a brief demonstration of it using my hand, he finally understood me and puts his head in embarrassment! He thought it was so funny in the way I had said ‘Lawn Bowls’! He refers it a Green Bowling! Both of us were in a state of tears and laughter hysterically. I could hardly stop laughing at him, he thought I was trying to make him look daft!

What a night and a tale to remember! Atleast now, Frazer understands what I mean! We will now be telling our friends about this episode!

ParaCommonwealth Challenge – Lawn Bowls

I embarked on exploring the Parasports for Glasgow 2014 and I thought I would share the journey with you all.

Ron McArthur’s warmth and engaging personality made me put myself at ease while playing Lawn Bowls. However, I have to say this sports is initially challenging which requires a great deal of practice, focus and persistence. I must commend Ron’s dedication, patience and resilience for his duty and passion to play Lawn Bowls for years on end. Anne was such a pleasure to meet, her warm and charismatic personality made me so welcome too.

I have thoroughly enjoyed exploring and trying out Lawn Bowls. Ron, Anne and Garry made me so welcome and I can see that Lawn Bowls brings a great social scene for individuals to be part of this sports.Photographer: Ron McArthur

Afterwards when I was speaking to one of my friends about the Para-sports journey, she literally summed it up in a nutshell:

The Para-sports will be amazing challenge, very fulfilling I imagine.

Nice email’s comment from Ron McArthur:
It was a great pleasure to meet you, I really enjoyed our short coaching session and I was delighted with your enthusiasm and I hope you enjoy the rest of  the para sport equally well.  You have an ebullient nature and I am sure you will be able to adapt to what ever circumstances you find yourself in.

Testimonial from Ron McArthur

I have just had a fantastic coaching session with a remarkable young lady. Julie McElroy suffers from CP and the Glasgow Evening Times are doing a feature on this young lady. She is trying every Para Sport, that will be at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. She started with lawn bowls and the coaching took place at Kelvingrove. I was supported by Garry Brown, a SDS Internationalist, who also has CP. I am also grateful to Anne Dunwoodie and Taylor Bowls who supplied the bowls for Julie to play with.

This young lady does not allow her disability to get in her way, she has climbed the Andes, run marathons, canoes, nothing is impossible to her. A delight to meet and a pleasure to coach.

For all the Scottish bowlers, get yourself along to Kelvingrove, the ground staff have done a tremendous job. It is open from 12 noon each day and it cost nothing to play. Give it a go and help bed in the greens.

Ron McArthur – A True Gentlemen

Ron McArthur who coached me for a session on Lawn Bowls was recognised by Scottish Disability Sports in September 2012.

Elspeth Watson Trophy: Ron McArthur

Person out with SDS who has  made a significant contribution to disability sport in Scotland:

  • This individual has been an exceptional friend of SDS since he first became involved in the Performance Bowls Group some four years ago.
  • He has contributed a significant amount to SDS national bowls sessions, Scottish teams travelling overseas and the development of bowls in Forth Valley where he has created strong links between the local Branch, SDS and Falkirk Indoor Bowling Club.
  • His contribution to the preparation of the Scotland squad prior to the IBD World Championships in South Africa was significant and he played a major role as a support coach to team manager Bob Dick throughout these Championships.
  • In his spare time, he has assisted with the SDS Education and Training programme and the development of ground breaking coaching resources.

Ron filled me in on a very moving story and his long association of Lawn Bowls.

I thought I would fill you in about this weird guy called Ron! 
I am a recovering Alky, my last drink was on the 17th July, 1977.   In my mid thirties, I started to play bowls.  I fell in love with the sport and supposed I changed 1 addiction for another. I found the game so friendly and although not one the best bowlers, I became engrossed in the sport.  In 1989, I qualified as a Scottish Bowls Umpire and have umpired at every possible level from club to World Championships.  I am a member of the Scottish Bowls Umpiring Committee.  A World Bowls International Technical Official Assessor (fancy name for top flight umpires)

Do you know Scotland has more ITO’s than any other country in the World.  We are simply the best. Although, I will not be responsible for selecting the 30 odd Scottish Umpires for Glasgow, I will be responsible for their training with regards to Marking and Umpiring the Visually Impaired and Physical disabled games.

I became a coach in 1991 and my ambition is to allow every single person in Scotland to try our sport.  In 2007, I was appointed National Coach for the Blind.  With very limited resources, they have achieved remarkable results.  We are working hard with our training and striving  to be the Gold medalists at Glasgow 2014.  We recently produced a training DVD for coaches and I will be covering Scotland ensuring every coach has been trained on VI coaching. In 2008, I became Ass Head Coach for SDS.  Again we have made great progress and in South Africa, 2011 at the IBD World Championships, Scotland moved to 2nd in the World.  Again, the Physically Disabled under Bob Dick’s coaching will be striving for Gold at Glasgow 2014.

I was also the first person ever to be elected onto both Bowls Councils, Bowls Scotland (formerly the SBA) for Outdoor Bowls and the SIBA  for Indoor Bowls.

As you can see, I am obviously addicted to bowls.  I think it is also worth pointing out, that all this is done purely on a voluntary basis.  That is another reason, I love bowls, we do what we do because we love it and not for what we can get out of it.  The more you put in the more you get out.
Photographer: Ron McArthur

Taylor Bowls History

Done an undercover assignment to the factory of Taylor Bowls. Anne Dunwoodie, who the PR and Marketing manager for Taylor Bowls and whom I met on my first Para-sports assignment, has kindly agreed to give me a tour of behind the scene of making bowls.

THE  COMPANY     “ A  Brief  History”

The Company was founded in 1796 under the name of James Taylor.  In 1866 the name was changed to Thomas Taylor by the third generation proprietor.

It was initially a wood-turning business that listed, among  its early products, wooden legs for the wounded of the Napoleonic Wars and musical instruments.   Gradually the business of the company turned more towards the manufacture of bowling green bowls.

In the nineteenth century, when all bowls were shaped by hand to a template and consequently no two bowls were exactly alike, Thomas Taylor made and patented a machine for shaping bowls accurately.

To obtain absolute uniformity each set of bowls was made from the same log of lignum vitae and put through the shaping machine as a matched set of four.

In the same year that the shaping machine was invented – 1871 – the company also constructed the world’s first table for testing the bias of bowls.

The table had a slate bed, similar to that of a billiard table, which was covered with felt and canvas.  The Test Table used at Taylors today is the largest in the world, being 31 feet long by twelve feet wide and although the surface has been improved to prevent tracking, the concept has changed little from the original table in 1871.

From 2001 the world wide standard surface adopted by the World Bowls Board for the testing of bowls is that which Taylor’s have been using for the past five years.

One notable improvement was made in 1998, and that was the Linear Delivery System (LDS).  Rather than let bowls run down a ramp or chute onto the table surface, Taylor’s have developed the only Linear Motor powered system to propel the bowl onto the table similar to a human hand delivering the bowl on a green.  This is carried out with repeatable accuracy.

Whilst the game of bowls was growing in popularity and spreading through the Empire, a problem was arising…..the wood, lignum vitae
which was an ideal material for bowls in cooler climates was not suitable for the conditions of hotter and drier climates. Also at this time  the quality of lignum vitae was deteriorating and the supply of good heart wood was becoming scarce.  A different material had to be found.

After much research a  PHENOL-FORMALDEHYDE  powder became the raw material for bowls.

This “composition” moulded and then machined into a bowl, proved to be the solution to both problems.

The company manufacturers its own mouldings in-house and machines them into bowls at this site.  It also sells a small percentage of its mouldings to other bowls manufacturers.

Interview with Tom Hamilton – GlasBowl Initative

I had the pleasure of interviewing Tom Hamilton,Volunteer Development Officer of Woodend Bowling and Lawn Tennis Club where the GlasBowl initiative is being piloted to outreach to 1000 Children by 2014. Glasbowl initiative is being endorsed by other Lawn Bowls clubs across Glasgow and beyond in the build-up to Glasgow2014.

Tell me about GlasBowl and how the idea came about?

GlasBowl was based on a similar project undertaken by Creetown Bowling Club. Woodend Bowling Club were already undertaking junior engagement with the Jordanhill Primary and Secondary Schools during the National Sports Week and this was the perfect platform to progress engagement throughout the wider community using the forthcoming 2014 Commonwealth Games as a springboard to reinforce participation and interest.

After an intitial meeting with Glasgow City Council Active Schools Coordinators it became apparent that we had the potential for a great programme and structure which could be rolled out anywhere with the correct support from local clubs.

How long have you been with Woodend BC and what is your role there?

I have been a member of Woodend Bowling Club since 2010. I played bowls as a junior at Burnbank Bowling Club in Glasgow a long long time ago from the age of 10 to 17 before starting my professional career. I had always harboured a passion to return to bowls, a sport which both my parents played at Burnbank Bowling Club for over forty years.
Tom Hamilton

My “official” role at Woodend Bowling Club is as a member of the Gents Committee and also a member of the Committee of Management for the whole club Woodend Bowling and Lawn Tennis Club. I am also the Volunteer Development Officer, Child Protection Officer and i see myself as a general agitator. I like to challenge perceptions and think the sport, which has always been a community based sport, has a great future if it can successfuly redefine itself within the context of a 21st century community based sport.

Where did you here about Julie and how were you inspired to approach her?

I first heard about Julie through Anne Dunwoodie who is a Scottish Internationalist Bowler and Marketing “Guru” at Taylor Bowls. Taylor Bowls and Anne in particular have been stron supporters of Woodend Bowling Club and our intitiatives over the last four or five years. The have sponsored and supported our club and juniors in particular with new bowls, equipment and publicity.

After some quick research of Julie’s previous activities online it was obvious that her enthusiasim and passion for sport and promoting the para sports agenda whislt changing the societies perceptions sat perfectly with what we were striving to do at Woodend Bowling Club and the GlasBowl agenda specifically.

We are nearly a year from Glasgow2014 and Lawn Bowls is one of the sports, how are you feeling about the excitement of getting children involved?

Its fantastic. I can’t express how exciting a time it is to see so many children on the green, Last years GlasBowl event and the final in particular was such a positive experience and it’s great to have kids coming up to you in the supermarket and saying how much they enjoyed it. One of the most memorable moments was when one of the GlasBowl participants was asking his dad if they could go to watch Lawn Bowls at the Commonwealth games when they come. How cool is that!!

We are all delighted to be part of GlasBowl as it has taken a lot of effort and time from all the coaches involved. It is VERY VERY exciting and rewarding. We can’t wait to take the kids along to see some of the forthcoming International Matches at Kelvingrove.