On Sunday October 2nd, after overcoming a variety of challenges, Paul Lindoewood completed the Cardiff Half Marathon course, using two powered wheelchairs, in 3 hours 36 minutes (and 1 second). He had hoped, at best, to take 3 hours 45 minutes and expected it would be 4 hours. The time included a ‘pit-stop’ for changing chairs.
The challenge was undertaken as an awareness-, and fund-, raiser for Disability in Wales and Africa (DWA). The focus was on DWA’s initiative, ‘Nothing About Us Without Us’. This aims to encourage Welsh development organisations working in Africa to engage with Disabled People’s Organisations. As part of this process, DWA also wants to encourage the same Welsh organisations to involve disabled people in Wales in their work. Paul believes that, in both Wales and Africa, nothing substantial will change in the lives of disabled people, unless their Disability Movements become a driving force.
The first challenge Paul faced in entering the race was getting his potential registration accepted. He says “a powered wheelchair user entering the Cardiff Half Marathon was, at best, unusual and I would like to thank the organisers for accepting my application, on this occasion, and providing advice and assistance”.
However, there were many other hurdles to be negotiated before getting to the start line. These included the bearings failing on a front castor a week before the event and fitting the boards on the wheelchairs displaying a revised slogan ‘Disabled People Say – “‘Nothing About Us Without Us”. This was printed in 6 languages – English, Welsh, Swahili (East Africa), Bemba (Zambia), Shoma (Southern Africa) and Hausa (Nigeria and Western Africa). Anther, longer standing challenge, was a faulty battery gauge, which reads zero long before the battery is dead.
Paul reflects “success in the race relied on reaching the Roath for my “pit stop” for the chair changeover. All my calculations for the race plan were thrown out at the beginning of the race, as I had to weave my way though the very intense spectator crowd, for 20 minutes, to get to my starting station and then spend another 15 minutes in an even more intense crowd of runners getting to the start line. The best way to drain the battery is to constantly start and stop the chair. I had originally expected a far shorter run to the wheelchair starting point.” He knew he could get 8.4 miles from his first chair, around the hills of Llangynidr but he just had to hope that the flatter course in Cardiff would allow him to go further. He had to reach his second chair – it was not going to come to him.
Although his first chair was still going strong, Paul was relieved to see his second chair as he approached the Roath. “This was when I started to believe everything was finally coming together” says Paul. “The event was an experience that I thoroughly enjoyed. The encouragement from the spectators and fellow participants was terrific. I remember one participant spending two or three seconds working out how to give me a right hand high-five without my having to take my hand off the joystick (?). Another time a young boy offered a high-five, so I offered my foot (!?!)”
Thanks to the generous donations from many supporters, the DWA Nothing About Us Without Us initiative is firmly established but you can still donate to the Crowd-funding page by going to https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/paul-lindoewood .