What was the reason for your disability?
I am a congenital above the knee double amputee which means that I was born with my disability.
What does it mean to you to have achieved the levels you have in your sport(s)?
Well, it’s been completely life changing to me. Doors were really opened for me when I began to be able to compete at a high level. Sport can be a powerful tool. I’ve competed in 7 marathons, 2 ultra marathons and I’m officially the fastest double leg amputee on marathons.
Can you talk us through how you first got into sport, and then into marathon running?
My parents first encourage me to get involved in sport. They introduced me to mainstream clubs because they wanted me to get involved. I started with swimming and gymnastics in local clubs and progressed from there. There was a great support mechanism in those clubs, they were all very friendly and encouraging and that gave me a great starting point.
I was involved with gymnastics until I was 12 and swam at a competitive level until I was 21. But then my aspirations changed and I realised that I needed a new sport that I could really put my heart and soul into. That’s when I started Sledge Hockey (a game similar to ice hockey but played on custom made sledges). The club environment in Sledge Hockey is very good because they gave great support from club level right up to Paralympic level.
I hadn’t run until 2004 because up until then the technology was very expensive, but I needed a new challenge so joined an athletics club. I ran my first marathon in 5 hours and 19 minutes, but I am now the MarathonWorld Record holder for a leg amputee with a time of 2 hours 56 minutes and 45 seconds.
I am also the leg amputee World Record holder for the Half Marathon with a time of 1 hour and 19 minutes.
What happened in 2004 or before, what made you start running?
Being a double legged amputee the less likely and hardest challenge would be to run. An ever greater challenge would be to run a marathon. I was inspired as a youngster by a Canadian athlete called Terry Fox. Terry became a single legged amputee after a battle with cancer. After losing his limb Terry attempted to run from East to West of Canada. His strength and determination was inspiration and showed that with a big heart and the will to succeed you can overcome barriers put in front of you. So at the start of 2004 I entered the New York Marathon which would take place 11 months later. When I entered I had no running experience and had not even ran one mile!
What was the reaction of your family and friends?
My family and friends were very supportive but they did have some doubts if I could finish a marathon.
I am very lucky that I have a very supportive group of family and friends. Their support is vital when preparing and training for gruelling events helping you through the highs and lows.
What became different in your life when you started your running career?
When I first began training for the marathon I did my running at night. I was very unsure about what kind of reaction I would get from the public. Its not everyday that you see someone running outside with no legs. Like any other runner its tough when you begin training and you require a lot of motivation to train hard. Mentally it is just as tough and I needed to remain strong for the challenges ahead.
I always wanted to be accepted as an athlete at races and not to be singled out as a disabled runner. Running has given me a great opportunity to hopefully inspire others to overcome barriers set by others.
Can you describe the feeling of running with artificial legs?
When running on my flex runs (artificial legs) I feel a sense of freedom. The technology has given to achieve the ambition of being able to run and I have found great reward from being able to do so. When I run I run with no knee joints so my legs are straight. This means that I run differently to other runners and use twice the amount of energy to run.