Polio survivor takes to the track

Ian will train with Paralympic coach Rick Hoskins in preparation for the one-mile event
Ian will train with Paralympic coach Rick Hoskins in preparation for the one-mile event

A disabled Wigan man who survived polio has been selected to take part in the first ever edition of a wheelchair racing day.

Ian Irving from Lowton is just one of five people with varying disabilities who will participate in the inaugural Unlimited Great North Run Wheelchair Event.

Ian Irving

Ian Irving

The 66-year-old contracted polio when he was just three-years-old, a viral infection that can cause temporary or permanent paralysis which affected both of his legs.

Having survived the terrible illness, he now suffers with post-polio syndrome (PPS), a rare condition which affects survivors years after recovery from the initial attack of polio. PPS causes further muscle weakness and fatigue for Ian if he doesn’t pace himself properly.

But that won’t stop him from pushing himself to the very limit in the race, and despite being a complete racing novice, he will have some top coaches on hand to remedy his lack of experience.

Ian will train with Paralympic coach Rick Hoskins in preparation for the one-mile event, which will take place in Newcastle on September 9.

Events were first set in motion for Ian to take part in the race, after venturing out to support his friend Bridget in the Wigan 10k.

As she crossed the finishing line, he saw another participant cross the line in a day chair, and suddenly wished he had entered himself.

Having only ever been a spectator of sporting events, Ian decided to take the plunge and enter the first wheelchair event.

He said: “I figured there was no way I could do it in a day chair, but wondered whether there was any possibility of doing it in a racing chair and wanted to try one from somewhere.”

He added: “I was really happy and inspired when I first sat in a race wheelchair, it was then that I realised there was nothing stopping me becoming a participant and not just a spectator.

“I’m hoping that it will be an exciting and enjoyable journey and I really want to meet the challenge and get fit and feel healthier. I think I’ll also get a great kick out of competing on closed roads and riding along that famous Newcastle waterfront.”

Ian believes that the opportunities available for people with a disability have improved significantly since he was young, which he thinks will in turn help improve health.

He commented: “Many disabled people are looking beyond their disabilities and are looking for much more from their lives than their counterparts from earlier generations, and as more opportunities arise so will the general health of the disabled population.”

Other novices taking part in the wheelchair race include 13-year-old Megan Bradley, who suffers from bilateral club feet and body seizures, 50-year-old ex-serviceman Richard Heather who has spinal nerve damage, Rosie Macauley, a 15-year-old cerebral palsy sufferer, and 17-year-old Lucy Keyworth who suffers from a neurological disease called Charcot Marie Tooth, which causes muscle weakness and affects one in 2,500 people in the UK.