Richard’s Story

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I’d always dreamt of being able to run a marathon.  I imagined the applause and support of the spectators and the feeling of crossing the finish line.  But these were only dreams. Being an above the knee, double legged amputee, just being able to run at all was more realistic!

In January 2004 I wanted to give myself a huge challenge.  With the dream of being abe to run I entered the New York Marathon.  When I sent off the application form I had no running knowledge.   I had never even ran one single mile, never mind 26. Yes – I’m crazy and my family and friends agreed.

I wanted to run not just for myself, but I also wanted to raise money for charity; lots of charities that had helped me whilst I was growing up.  The charity I finally chose to run on behalf was Macmillan Cancer Relief. I had great respect for the work and support they offer to cancer sufferers and their families.  By decision was reinforced when a month before the race a close friend contracted cancer.  He became a major driving force and inspiration behind my run.

My training started in the February, 2004.  I began running mainly on treadmills in my local gym.  At that time I was running on my knees using sport cups.  That’s how I run when I don’t have my prosthetic legs.  I then built enough confidence to brave the open roads.  Mainly running at night so as not to attract any attention I began to experience the freedom of running outside.  I was hooked.  Like any other athlete at the beginning running was hard work and a grueling experience.  I was getting pains on top of other pains at times I felt I was getting nowhere and was just running backwards.  At that stage I could only run for about 30 minutes.  Getting the strength and belief to run further was one of biggest obstacles to overcome.  I was aware that I needed to keep going, as November was getting closer and closer.  At times I was concerned that I hadn’t run anywhere near five miles, so at that point a marathon distance seemed impossible.

In the spring of 2004 the local media had picked up my crazy running story.  They started to track my slow progress and were a fantastic help with raising awareness and fundraising sponsorship for Macmillan.  I was starting to feel the pressure. Hundreds of pounds were starting to roll in, and family and friends were working hard to raise as much cash as possible.

By the time summer arrived the most I had ever ran was ten miles.  The ten mile runs destroyed me physically and mentally and the distance and heat had given me blisters the size of a 50p pieces. This running was getting me down.  But I still believed that I would complete the New York Marathon, even if it took me a week.

In the October, five weeks before the big race, I experienced a Eureka moment. A fellow amputee heard about some special running legs that were available.  After a little research I found the technology that could help to make my running dream a reality.  But there was a problem the price tag of £2,000 per leg had put them out of my reach.  Disappointed, but still determined, I continued to the grueling training sessions on my knees using my sport cups still believing.  Then out of the blue I received some fantastic new. Ossur, the company behind the running leg technology heard about my marathon challenge and donated two flex run, running feet.

With my local prosthetics’ helping to fit and make sockets for these feet it now seemed realistic that I would at least start a race!

With just 13 days to go before the New York Marathon my running legs were ready. These were my “saving grace” but time was running out. My prosthesist very aware that I am an determined individual advised me to take it easy and just wear these new flex runs around the house for the first couple of days.  So I listened to his advice and then hit the road that evening running for just over two hours. Oh, how that run hurt but it the furthest and quickest I had ever run in my life.  I was still getting used to my new legs and there was lots of training still to be done.  Now I believed that finishing the race could be possible…

With just two days to go before the big I needed to push myself to breaking point, to find out how far I could run.  So with some water, banana and mobile phone I ran until I could run no more.  I managed 18 miles, but I could no longer walk, I was feeling nauseous and extremely distressed thinking I would struggle to make the journey across the Atlantic, never mind the running a marathon.

On the 7th November 2004 the New York marathon had arrived.  Nervous, but determined I met up with my two running guides who would motivate and help collect water, refreshments during the race. An early rise at 4.30am I began preparing for the start of the race at 8.30am.  My motivation in those hours before and during the race was that I wasn’t going to let anyone down. My friends, family and local community had raised over £8,000 for Macmillan and were fully behind my challenge.  I have a lot of self belief and was going to give it my best shot.

The race was an amazing experience.  Fellow runners and spectators support took me to a different level.  I was inspired by the warmth and camaraderie during the entire.  It was an unbelievable experience.  I finished the race in 5 hours 18 minutes and it was amazing. Thousands of people were pushing me to the finish line. Their words of encouragement and support pulled me into the finish line from 20 miles – 26 miles.

The feeling when I crossed the finish line was the best thing I have ever felt. The last mile was so emotional, my goal was insight.  I had achieved something that I never thought I could achieve.  Since running New York I have run numerous marathons including the notorious Snowdonia Marathon and two Ultra Marathons Comrades and Two Oceans Ultra (34.5miles) both held in South Africa.

Many people say that I am an inspiration.  All I can say is that I am an athlete, who has been given the opportunity to run.  Running is a sport that, due to advances in technology, I am now able to participate on a level playing field with my able-bodied counterparts.

I am going to run faster, longer and stronger with goals that reflect that. I will continue to run marathons, ultra marathons, and do coast-to-coast runs all over the world.

I also want to compete on the Ironman stage, but my aspirations are bigger than that. I want to make a difference. To prove that even though I have a disability, I have overcome barriers that have been put in front of me.

Hopefully I can pass on a message of hope through my dedication to sport and be an inspiration to all.

If I could sum up everything I do, it would be what’s tattooed on my right arm: Cometh the hour, cometh the man.”