‘Never let what you can’t do, stop you from doing what you can.’

As the TCS New York Marathon gears up to cope with more than 51,000 competitors on 5 November, one local athlete, 55-year-old Ian Walker, is packing his bags in readiness. He’s aiming to finish in close to 2 hours, which is a pretty remarkable time. But then Ian is a pretty remarkable bloke.

In 2006 Ian cycled head first into the rear of a truck and trailer unit causing serious spinal injuries and leaving him paralysed from the chest down. He owes his life to his cycle helmet.

A nationally ranked football referee and nine-time marathoner (best time 2:57:31), as his five-month recovery and rehabilitation progressed, he discovered a passion for hand cycling, and his love of marathoning was also slowly re-ignited.

In 2014 Ian took part in, “but didn’t complete,” the TCS New York City Marathon, but due to high winds (gusting 80 – 100km/hr) on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge between the Marathon start in Staten Island and Brooklyn, all handcycles and racing chairs were started in Brooklyn. “So, I’m 5.5 k’s short of the full 42.2k distance,” he grins.

“New York is the ultimate race. A lot of disabled military veterans take part and everyone gets right into it. The crowd are so supportive of everyone participating and Central Park at the end is a huge buzz.”

His cycle is transported to the start line early on race-day, and the athletes arrive around 6am by bus. “It’s pretty cold at that time on a November New York morning; it’s likely to be around 6° with a wind chill factor of minus two, so I buy a few cheap layers that I can just peel off and drop by the side of the course once I warm up. Any discarded clothing is then gathered up for the homeless, so you know it will be put to good use.”

He’d like to have a crack at the Los Angeles marathon some time, but says this will probably be his last time in the New York race, so he’s firmly focussed on putting in a great performance. “Handcycling hasn’t the same continual physical impacts on your body as running but is very hard on the arms and shoulders, and a lot can go wrong with a hand cycle. I have great gear and I’m determined. I can taste the finish line!”

In preparation, in addition to a tough ‘swim and gym’ regime, this year alone he has successfully completed the 2017 Buller Gorge and ASB Christchurch marathons, a 60km ride in Selwyn, a 80km ride in Mid Canterbury and a 100km ride in Christchurch.  He’s as primed and ready as he can be.

Thanks to Invacare Asia Pacific he also has a new cycle for this race. “Invacare manufacture equipment for people with mobility issues. They’ve given me a cycle that is more reclined, and fully adjustable, so I’m better positioned to deliver a great deal more power. I guess I’m now a sponsored athlete!”

His goal to complete this year’s marathon, through Achilles International, the disabled athlete’s charity, is also part of his personal campaign, riding for Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Awareness.

He’s very appreciative of all the support he’s had so far. “Geoff Purtill, Vice President and General Manager Invacare Asia Pacific deserves a huge thank-you, and also everyone who has supported my Give a Little fundraising efforts. I’m only $750 short of my target, so I’m hoping to bowl that.”

To help Ian’s fundraising efforts. Go to :www.givealittle.co.nz/cause/iansrideforsci 

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Judy McAuliffe is a writer, and publisher Essence Mid Canterbury. Her experience in media is extensive and includes approximately 15 years as Creative Director for The Radio Network, writing, and managing the writing of radio advertising, mainly in Invercargill and Greymouth. In the late 1990’s she transferred to Christchurch, moving into an Account Management role with 91ZM. In 2007 she and a business partner set up Essence Mid Canterbury, very quickly adapting her radio-writing skills to print media. Judy became sole owner of Essence Mid Canterbury in June 2014. Judy is a ‘people person’ and has found her niche writing feature stories about the community she lives in and the people who live there. She is also available for freelance writing assignments.