Bedford & County Athletics Club - Wheelchair Racing have been putting on twice weekly virtual sessions for our athletes during lockdown. Normally training would take place at Bedford International track and at Biggleswade AC track in Sandy in the absence of this the coaches have helped organise rollers for our athletes so they’re able to train indoors statically and for those that don’t have a roller the chair is set up on bricks in the garden and tethered. The sessions are held via Zoom and consist of a weekly shorter sprint session consisting of short burst and fast pushes and a longer hour and a half session designed to increase endurance.
Some of the athletes have serious health conditions that have meant absolute shielding, so the sessions we hold are the main exercise they’ve been able to do and have kept each in contact with their fellow club mates.
The twice weekly sessions have not just been valuable for maintaining physical strength but also mental health. Coaches Zoe Luscombe and Michael Blunt have encouraged the athletes and as the Club gets stronger so their performances improve. Without the sessions some athletes would have very little contact with the outside world. Whilst the club is still quite small we do have some very talented athletes with a UK ranking of 16th for 100m Wheelchair T34, and UK ranking of 22 for 200m and 400m T54 as well as a London Mini Marathon finisher in 3rd position in 2019.
Before lockdown one of our athletes could regularly be seen competing in Bedford ParkRun but with this no longer possible training is now done on the roller whilst at home. However, the lockdown has presented the club with a great opportunity to join other virtual sessions in particular the East Washington Spokane virtual 12k with 80 other participants from all over the world including New Zealand where at was 4am! This gave our athletes the opportunity to train with several para Olympians. We are not sure this opportunity would have been available otherwise.
Before the second lockdown, training had recommenced at the track on a Sunday morning, but it is now back to virtual training for as long as the lockdown lasts. In between the lockdowns the athletes visited Coventry for a competition (see the photo) and were able to record some good times. The photo shows the Bedford athletes, their coaches together with Job King, England Athletics.
The Club is also progressing a £6,500 grant from the Harpur Trust to provide a large wooden cabin which will be erected at the Stadium. This will be roomy enough to provide storage for the chairs and other equipment as well as space for a couple of rollers to facilitate indoor training during inclement weather. It is likely that this will be erected during the second week of December.
Howard Darbon, Manager, Wheelchair Racing Section.