The Paralympics – Running and Me

The Paralympics – Running and Me

As the Paralympic Games continue in Tokyo this week we wanted to share what our community thinks of Disabled sport’s premier festival.

The third piece in this new series is written by Fazilet Hadi, Head of Policy at Disability Rights UK and touches on her own relationship to the games and what sport and physical activity means to her.

I know that many Disabled people are fiercely independent, interpreting this as doing things for themselves. I believe I’m also independent but for me, this often means knowing what I want, rather than doing things on my own. This mantra applies to my love of running, where lots of people have supported me.

I lost my sight gradually during my childhood and could see very little by my early twenties. It took me far too long to use a white cane and my external mobility has never been great. Adventurous outdoor activity has always meant others giving me a guiding arm, whether foreign travel, a trek in Iceland or a walk in the countryside.

In 2011, the year before the London Olympics, 2 friends asked me if I wanted to run with them. I was touched by their kindness and immediately said yes. I think there was already some excitement about the Olympics and Paralympics taking place in London the following year.

The Paralympic logo flies above London Stadium during the 2012 Paralympic opening ceremony

I started with a mix of running and walking. That autumn and winter, I went for a guided run every Sunday morning. It energised me and made me happy, especially when the run was over! I had run on the treadmill at the gym but found outdoor running exhilarating. In Spring 2012, I amazed myself by running the BUPA 10K.

After a long gap without outdoor running, in 2019 I joined Park Run and had the joy of regular Saturday morning 5k runs with a variety of volunteer guides. Since April this year I’ve been back running in the gym and hope to return to Park Run.

A runner celebrates at the Paralympics with their guide

I’m not an athlete or super interested in sport but I love the spotlight that the Paralympics puts on Disabled people. We are often invisible in the media, so it is fantastic to see us take centre stage.  I’m not a fast runner but I’ve got so much out of running whether on a treadmill or outdoors. Its partly about me being able to move more quickly, which is often not possible for me and because it gives me a sense of wellbeing.

I know running is not for everyone but if possible I’d recommend finding a type of physical activity that suits you. Being a Disabled person often brings many stresses and physical activity can help us regain our balance. I wish all the GB para-athletes every success.

If you’ve enjoyed Fazilet’s story, and haven’t caught up with the rest of our Paralympic stories you can view them all here.