Wheelchair athletics

C&C gained its first wheelchair racers a few years ago, and since January 2015 has run sessions for a group of wheelchair racers once a week on Monday evenings.

Where and when?

We meet on Monday evenings at the University Sports Centre, Phillippa Fawcett Drive, Cambridge CB3 0FS. We split our training between the track and the university’s West Site, which allows practice for road races. We currently meet at 6.00 but precise timings vary throughout the year so get in touch to find out more.

Who can come along?

Wheelchair racing is suitable for anyone with a disability affecting one or both legs – be it paralysis, amputation, impaired co-ordination/muscle tone, leg length difference – all kinds of things! It’s also appropriate for people with conditions which affect their health more widely or who, for whatever reason, find walking (and running) difficult. Many of us also have additional problems related to our disabilities (e.g. limited arm function, autonomic disorders and so on).

You do not have to be a full-time wheelchair user to come along.

The group is friendly and welcoming, no matter who you are. It doesn’t matter what gender you are, what your disability is or how it affects you, how fit you are, whether you want to do it for fun or to race, or what age you are – anyone can come and take part!

How do I arrange to come along?

Email wheelchairs@cambridgeandcoleridge.org.uk

Further questions

What should I wear?
Most of the kit is the same as you’d get for running, and you certainly don’t need to spend much on it. At winter time, long leggings and long-sleeved tops (possibly with a body warmer) are ideal. The thinner your layers, the more comfortable you will be in a chair. It’s best to wear plenty of layers on top initially that you can remove as you warm up, but bear in mind that you need as much shoulder movement as possible. We tend to wear fluffy socks instead of shoes but this is a personal choice. Wheelchair racers also wear helmets (just normal bike helmets) and gloves. The gloves are expensive and can be borrowed from the club until you know you want to continue. Helmets can also be borrowed but if you prefer to bring your own then that’s also fine.

What should I bring?
Lots of layers, a bottle of water, maybe a snack – and not much else! When we train off the track we also wear a hi-viz top and attach bike lights to the chairs.

How long does the session last?
Usually about an hour. We don’t just push solidly for an hour though, and you can work at your own pace.

I’d like to try it, but…
I’m not very fit / I’m worried I’d get left behind – this is the perfect way to get fitter, and we don’t leave people behind: you can work at your own pace, starting from any level. Our coaches plan every session so that we can all train together – at the same time and in the same place, just doing different distances – regardless of how fast or experienced you are.

I’ve never tried something like this before – we all remember how it felt to be a beginner! The group, the coaches and the club in general are all so welcoming that you’ll be well supported from the start. Give it a go and see if it’s for you.

I’m not sure I can afford it – wheelchair racing doesn’t have to be expensive with C&C. Your first three sessions are taster sessions – you do the same session as you would as a member, but you don’t have to pay. After that, there is an annual membership fee (currently subscription rates are listed here), but there are very few extra costs. The club has racing chairs, gloves and helmets for members to use in training sessions and to take away to races, and there is no ‘session’ fee. If you choose to race, you pay to enter races but these are often inexpensive. Membership of C&C includes membership of England Athletics, which gives you a reduced entry fee for road races.

I don’t know if I have the ‘right’ disability – the best way to find out if wheelchair racing is right for you is to come and try it. The nature and degree of impairments varies very widely within the sport. Some wheelchair racers have tetraplegia whereas others are able to use their arms and even walk fairly well – it takes all sorts!

I don’t think I want to do it competitively – whilst there are plenty of opportunities to race, it’s certainly not compulsory. Wheelchair racing isn’t just about ‘racing’, it’s also about getting active and meeting new people – and we have a lot of fun!

I think I’m too old or young – you probably aren’t! As long as you’re fit enough to push the chair yourself safely – even for short distances – then you can come and give it a go.

I have a learning disability as well as a physical disability – not a problem, you are as welcome as anyone else. Feel free to bring a parent/friend/carer if you think that would help.

I’d need a bit of help (e.g. transferring, with kit, etc.) -you can bring someone with you who you know well and who is used to the help you need if you like. Alternatively, our coaches are very well trained in assisting with all sorts of things!

I’m not really disabled, but it looks really fun – it is fun, but so is running! There is a limited amount of equipment that can be loaned to people who really need it, so if you want to train with the group on a regular basis, you really should have a permanent disability which dramatically affects your ability to get around on foot. We realise that it’s a pretty cool sport and we enjoy giving able-bodied people a chance to see what it’s like. The best way to do this is to join the club as a runner and/or a coach, get to know us, then ask us directly!

Here’s what we do…. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kF1CYyLGvTY