My Experiences in Disability Sport – Part 5: An End and A New Beginning

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Previous posts on disability sport:

After the excitement of the School Games, it was then back to school the next day and back to GCSE mocks – not so exciting! I did have a couple of teachers ask me about the School Games, one teacher in particular was really interested, which was nice.

Around a month later, for some reason a few people at school thought I was taking part in the Paralympics. I’m not sure why they thought that or where they’d heard it from, but I wasn’t at that level of sport at all! Some might have considered that a compliment but it frustrated me a bit because it felt as though these people weren’t considering the Paralympics to be an elite sport. It was almost as though they thought the Paralympics were something that anyone who took part in disability sport could compete in. They wouldn’t have said the same thing about someone taking part in the Olympics! On another note, it also frustrates me when people watch the Paralympics and all they comment on is the fact that the people are ‘so inspirational’. Whilst yes, it is inspiring to watch, it is an elite sport too.

Towards the end of 2012 I took part in a Paralympic Sports Fest event at Surrey Sports Park. There was the opportunity to try lots of different sports, obviously in an adapted way so that it could take place in a sports hall, using equipment such an indoor canoeing machine and a horse riding simulator.

The funniest moment of the day had to be me attempting ice sledge hockey. I just could not get the hang of it, it was so difficult! In any other environment I probably would have felt quite embarrassed but being in such an inclusive environment meant that I was sat there laughing and not being able to move anywhere, whilst my coach was also laughing, taking photos of me and filming me! I never did get round to seeing that video though!

In 2013 I took part mainly in competitions which were more local. Well, with the exception of Grantham for the CP Sport Nationals and Preston for the DSE Nationals! I didn’t take part in the DSE regionals this year as it happened to be on the same day as a Leona Lewis concert I had tickets for. I took part in a couple of competitions in London, Lee Valley and Kingston, and in Bedford. I also took part in competitions in Watford and St Ives in Cambridgeshire (these were both open competitions in the evening). In the open competitions I took part in you were entered into a race based on your time. This often meant that at 16 years old I was racing against able-bodied 11 year olds! Sometimes it did feel a little awkward but it was something that I got used to and I knew that I was only competing against myself, to try to get a new PB.

It was during these later years of taking part in athletics when we took part in competitions more independently, obviously we were older now than when we first started. Although it’s quite a specific thing, something I remember finding difficult was when I had to warm-up on my own. For context, for those who haven’t been involved in athletics before, often at competitions you don’t have a ‘set’ warm-up area (this depends on the level of competition but for local competitions this was the case). This means you have to find an area of the track that’s not being used and warm up there. I often found this stressful, especially if there were races going on or I knew one would be starting soon. It sounds simple but when you’re dyspraxic your brain can overcomplicate things like this. As it turned out, it was always fine, I never got in the way of any races. Although I did once misjudge how much time I had to warm-up and had someone run over telling me my race was about to start!

Although I didn’t know it at the time, 2014 was my last year of athletics! Again, with the exception of regionals and nationals, I took part in more local competitions this year. I was in Year 12, doing my AS Levels, so it was getting harder to fit in athletics with school work. I did take part in the 400 metre relay at the DSE nationals though and was only told about it around 45 minutes before! There was logic behind that though, to prevent me from worrying about it too much!

It was great to be involved in the relay actually, as I mentioned in my previous posts the nationals always had such a great team atmosphere. I think this photo sums that up!

In September I started taking part in training sessions at the MS Centre, which coincidentally was a five minute drive from where I live! Although I don’t have MS, they were looking for people with CP to trial sessions at their centre and they wanted people with a range of severities, so I took part as someone with more mild CP. I did various exercises there, which I enjoyed doing, although by the time it had got to around October/November I had stopped going to training sessions at the track, so I thought it would be better that someone else took my place to have sessions at the MS centre. I hadn’t suddenly decided to stop going training, it had been gradual throughout the year as A Levels got busier and eventually it got to the point where I really struggled to fit athletics in with A Levels. 

It was a shame to stop, as I had enjoyed doing athletics so much and had done it for such a long time. I didn’t really take part in any sport for a while, aside from a one-off disability badminton session, which I really enjoyed. I would have considered taking part in that regularly if it was somewhere a bit more local.

A few years later I then got into jogging. I certainly don’t think I would have gotten into jogging if it wasn’t for the fact that I had taken part in athletics for all those years. Firstly, I’d never have known that running was something I would enjoy doing. And secondly, my running had improved over those years of training – I’d gone from running 100 metres in 22.1 seconds in 2009 to 17.5 seconds in 2014.

So how did I get into jogging all those years later? Well, it started off when I took part in the British 10k for the first time in 2016, where I walked the route with my friend and fellow dyspraxic blogger Rosie to raise money for the Dyspraxia Foundation. It was such a great event with a fantastic atmosphere.

I also took part in a 10k event in September, Parallel London, which was a fully inclusive event. People could take part in races of a variety of distances, completely at their own pace. It was great to take part in such an inclusive event – similarly to how I felt when taking part in disability athletics competitions.

I can’t remember exactly how it happened but a few months later I decided that I would try jogging. Back when I had been doing athletics, whilst it would have been good to go out for runs to keep my fitness up, I was too embarrassed/worried to. What if I bumped into (I was about to say not literally but with me it could well be literally!) someone I knew? What would other people think? A few years later though I had that bit more confidence.

So I started with a combination of walking and jogging and gradually built it up. I may have gone at a slower pace than other people – building it up over a long period of time, but that didn’t matter. What I liked about jogging/running was that it was an individual thing – I could see my improvements against my own times, not anyone else’s. In 2017 I took part in the British 10k again, this time with a combination of jogging and walking. I also took part in Parallel London again but took part in the 5k event this time. I continued to build up my running gradually, taking part in my first Parkrun in 2018, where I was really pleased with myself for being able to run the whole route without walking. I ran my first full 10k in October that same year, which was definitely an achievement for me. I had gone from walking a 10k in 2016 in 1 hour 56 minutes to running the whole 10k two and a bit years later in 1 hour 8 minutes. That’s one of the things I loved (and still do) about running, the sense of achievement from improving against yourself, not anyone else.

I then beat my 10k PB in 2019, getting it down to 1 hour and 4 minutes. I was particularly pleased with that, especially due to the fact that it was only a few days before when I had fallen over whilst out running, resulting in a trip to A&E! That taught me that attempting to run down a steep hill was a bad idea!

A couple of years ago I decided to join my local road running club, North Herts Road Runners. I’d looked into the club a few times and one day decided that I would try one of their sessions. I did feel a bit nervous about it, as my previous positive experiences in sport had all been in an environment where I was surrounded by other people with disabilities. For that reason it’s something I don’t think I’d have had the confidence to do at all a few years before. One thing I particularly liked about this club though is that there were different groups for different ability levels. 

So after looking on their website, I sent an email to find out some more information. I was debating whether to mention having dyspraxia/CP or not – I knew I would mention it at some point but didn’t know when to do so. I found myself starting to worry about whether they did any warm up drills and what they would involve, as I know from my past experiences that some drills require a lot of coordination. So in my next email I mentioned about having dyspraxia/CP and that it might mean that I find drills involving balance and coordination difficult but that I would happily give them a go. The reply I received was reassuring which made me feel better about it and I knew that my group coach would be made aware.

So along I went to my first session – it was very useful that the location they met was not far from where I lived. I still felt nervous about it, as it was something new, but I’m really glad I went. It’s a great club, full of lovely and understanding people. The sessions varied each time, sometimes they would be continuous runs, sometimes interval sessions. It was great to be running as part of a group! Unfortunately I haven’t actually been to their sessions in over a year now. Firstly, I got out of the habit of going over winter during the cold, dark nights and then of course there was lockdown. But I definitely want to get involved more with the club again. I do occasionally run on my own and actually built it up quite a bit over lockdown last year, managing to run 14k which is my furthest ever distance! I just tend to find it harder to stay motivated to run over winter. I have entered a 10k already for this year though, which happens to be on my birthday. So I’m sure the fact that I’ve got that booked will motivate me – that’s if it still goes ahead of course!

Interestingly, something I’ve noticed whilst writing this series of posts is that I’ve had to think more specifically about how dyspraxia affected me in different situations, more so than I have done for other posts. I think that’s down to the environments in disability sport being so inclusive and the fact that we all had a disability, so none of us felt like we stood out in comparison to everyone else.

I can’t quite believe how much I’ve managed to write over this series of posts. Even then there’s probably quite a lot which I haven’t included! I do miss taking part in disability athletics at times but I’m so grateful to have had the opportunities I had – the places I travelled to, the friends I made, the opportunity to compete alongside Paralympians, the list could go on! It’s definitely completely changed my perception on sport…although I still don’t like football!

Natalie 🙂

Previous posts on disability sport: Disability Sport – A GlossaryDyspraxia and Disability Sport – An Introduction and a Guide to ClassificationMy Experiences in Disability Sport – Part 1: Beginning to Train and CompeteMy Experiences in Disability Sport – Part 2: Continuing Competing and A New DiagnosisMy Experiences in Disability Sport – Part 3: New Opportunities…


Previous posts on disability sport: Disability Sport – A GlossaryDyspraxia and Disability Sport – An Introduction and a Guide to ClassificationMy Experiences in Disability Sport – Part 1: Beginning to Train and CompeteMy Experiences in Disability Sport – Part 2: Continuing Competing and A New Diagnosis As I mentioned in my previous post, having a…


Previous posts on disability sport: Disability Sport – A GlossaryDyspraxia and Disability Sport – An Introduction and a Guide to ClassificationMy Experiences in Disability Sport – Part 1: Beginning to Train and Compete After finding out that disability sport was something I enjoyed, I continued training during the winter. It did get very cold and…


Previous posts on disability sport: Disability Sport – A GlossaryDyspraxia and Disability Sport – An Introduction and a Guide to Classification During primary school I hated PE. I was slow at getting changed into my PE kit, I was slow at running, I struggled to catch a ball. I did not enjoy sports day at…


Previous post on disability sport: Disability Sport – A glossary Sport… something which seemingly involves good balance, coordination, motor skills, and spatial awareness. To some it may sound like a dyspraxic’s worst nightmare! This was the view I had of sport for quite a few years, up until I got into disability sport where the…


In sport there is often a lot of terminology to get your head around and even more so when it comes to disability sport! So I thought I would include a glossary which you can refer to when reading my series of blog posts on disability sport.


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