Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Race Time Again

It is the eve of my outdoor season once again. When I sit back and think about how long I have been involved in athletics, I am surprised that I haven’t given up on it yet. There are a lot of things that have happened in the sport that make me want to throw in the towel. The one element that stops me is the fact that I know I have not reached my full potential. I desperately want to represent Great Britain at a championships. I can’t believe it is nearly three years since I got the opportunity to compete for England at the Commonwealths. Paralympic sport moves so fast it is difficult to know whether I will reach the necessary standard to fulfil my goal. However, I intend on training week in week out for the foreseeable future. Training dominates my life. At times it is tough to try and justify the commitment when I’m not exactly winning medals or breaking records. I could probably be successful if I took up another sport, but I love to run, I love to sprint, I love athletics in general.

I had a positive indoor season, reducing my 60m PB from 8.77 to 8.63. Since last winter I have lost about ten pounds in body weight, but I am managing to lift heavier than I have ever done in the gym before. I have four months of racing ahead of me with the only target being to run as fast as I can. I fully expect to break my 100m PB of 13.61. Perhaps not instantly, but it will happen in the coming months.

There is a new rule for T11 athletes, which now requires us to wear eye patches as well as blacked out shades in races to reduce cheating. This is not a problem for me other than sourcing some eye patches since I can’t see anything with my shades on anyway. Even without shades I can’t see anything when I run. Yes I have light perception in my left eye, but when moving at speed my eye fails to detect anything and blacks out. In some ways I am pleased that the IPC recognises that there is a problem with my classification. It now has athletes who have useful vision and who are able to walk, run and train unaided. Originally I thought the most vision you were allowed to have in the T11 classification was light perception. I am not sure what the limits are now. All I know is if that you are able to train unaided then you have an advantage over me even if you are blindfolded in a race. This is because you are able to:

Train without a guide thus giving you more feeling and chance to develop control over your body
Learn new drills/exercises visually making them easier for you to pick up and enhance your running ability
Generally be able to do drills/exercises that simply aren’t safe or feasible for a totally blind athlete to do, again increasing your running ability

Racing with a blindfold is not scary once you master the fear and trust your guide runner. Put Usain Bolt in a blindfold and I am certain he would still be able to run under ten seconds, as he has visually learnt the art of running and doesn’t need to see in order to implement his technique. The only trouble would be finding a guide runner fast enough for him! Whilst I feel disadvantaged in my classification at the moment, I accept that nobody is cheating under the current rules. If a classifier has deemed somebody to be a T11 then they are a T11 and there is nothing I can do about it. It is just unlucky for me that I am at the more severe end of my classification. I just feel it is important to write down my views. The classification system is there to make para-sport as fair as possible and it unfortunately is never going to satisfy everybody as no two people have exactly the same disability.

All of that aside, I am hoping to have a good season. I am looking forward to seeing how fast I can go…

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