A Wellington lawyer is competing in the inaugural wheelchair race at next month’s Auckland Marathon, just two years after a mountain biking accident left her paralysed from the chest down.
Laura Stuart, who works for the Ministry for Primary Industries, borrowed a racing wheelchair from paraplegic association Parafed to compete in the New York marathon late last year.
But for the Auckland event, the ASB Bank is giving a custom-built racing chair to Ms Stuart.
“I was advised that it was too early and too ambitious and I should wait until the next year, but I trained for six months and managed to complete it,” Ms Stuart says of her New York experience.
“I wanted to have a big scary goal, and the New York marathon meant ticking off two big steps for me – travelling internationally in a wheelchair and getting my fitness and strength back.”
Having her own racing chair will allow her to enter more events and train around the capital’s Oriental Bay, she says.
“Having a chair built to fit me will hopefully mean that I don’t feel like I’m on a chair but that the chair is part of me. I hope it will give me the feeling of freedom that I used to get when I went for a run or a ride on my bike.”
Laura Stuart was selected for the chair by the Halberg Disability Sport Foundation and Achilles New Zealand.
The wheelchair category at the ASB Auckland Marathon on October 28 will see competitors race over Auckland’s Harbour Bridge and around the city.