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Interview with disabled athlete Mark Davidson

Mark Davidson, 42, Lancaster, England

How long have you been running races?

I started in 1994, so that would be 15 years.

How long have you been running for the Get Kids Going! team?

The Bupa Great North run a month ago was my first race for them. Iíve known Jane for awhile and through connections with the coaches that David Weir uses. Thatís how I got involved

I notice your arm, what is wrong?

Thatís cerebral palsy. That affects the entire right side of my body. Fortunately, it doesnít really affect my legs that much. Itís a birth defect. A lack of oxygen to the brain while I was in the womb. It just affects my arm more then my leg, but I get by in life.

How does the cerebral palsy affect your training?

Very little. In fact, probably none at all. I suppose Iím more susceptible to injuries, but because Iím more aware of what the problems it can cause. I sort of get around it. I put whatís called orthotic insoles my trainers. They allow me to take it better when my feet hit the ground.

What Kind of Hurtles did you have to be a successful runner?

Well uhÖWhen I was young I used to have a lot of physiotherapy to correct any defects that I did have, and that sorta of paid dividends now. As Iíve grown up, big problems have become less and less. I mean in the beginning I used to have a plastic cast on my leg every summer for about 5 years for about 8 weeks at a time.

So if you donít train differently, what is your training like?

Its good and bad it all depends on Jenny, my trainer. Sometime we run through the park which is very tough, and other times I run around the track which is a lot more pleasant I get to run with with other people. I actually prefer wintertime then summer. I donít like running when itís warm. Itís a lot more tiring.

Do you run marathons or half marathons?

Well to date Iíve done two full marathons, one half marathon, and lots and lots of 10kís and 5kís. I prefer half marathons and 10ks then full Marathons. It is just a lot of effort to do the training involved. Because Iíve done the London marathon twice, Iím not too sure if I will ever do a marathon again. Iíll do a few more half marathons and more 10k races.

It is always worth doing one marathon, just so you know what other people are going through. The last 6 or 7 miles are hell on earth and its all mental toughness then anything else. One thing people donít realize is how tired your arms get when you run for such a long distance

So why do a marathon?

I like a challenge. I like climbing mountains. Iíve done a few of them around the world and a marathon just seems another good challenge to do. It seems like one of those things to tick off the list

What have the children you have met who have recieved wheelchairs from Get Kids Going! said about the Get Kids Going charity?

Itís good. I know there is a couple uhóJenny, Jenny Archer I believe she trains them. They are really pleased they have these wheelchairs. Because one thing it does enable them to do is to race, whereas previously they have never had the facility to do so. Especially with people like David around as well, they see him as a role model. I think more kids want to get into wheelchair racing.

What are the wheelchair competitions like?

The only ones Iíve seen are the major events unfortunately because that is where all the prize money is. Thatís where all the best wheelchair racers are anywhere. Those are all Iíve covered

What sports are covered in the Paralympics?

In the Paralympics you got the track racing, the marathon, the basketball, wheelchair rugby. Wheelchair rugby is like wheelchair basketball but t hey run into each other and thereís a lot more spills. Guys fall out of chairs. There stuff like wheelchair archery of course. Basically Of what Iíve seen of the Paralympics there seems to be more sports where people in wheelchairs replicate the able body sports as well. For example there is wheelchair tennis which is quite good to watch.

The one complicated thing I would say about the Paralympics is that there are so many different disabilities in each sport they have to have so many different categories. Because some of the disabilities are so severe and some are very mild, so if you put all the athletes in one big pool that those with the mild disabilities would win every time. They deemed it a bit unfair.

So the sports are split up?

Swimming for example is a prime example of that. I mean there is a famous one Natalie Du Toit. Sheís a South African swimmer. She competed in the able bodies Olympics. She just lost her leg below the knee, so she swims perfectly well. The trouble is when she swims against Paralympic athletes, she wins by by two three lengths. It seems a bit ridiculous.

Thank you for coming in and chatting with us.

Sure no problem. Anytime

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