Paraplegic prepares for New York marathon

ANNA PEARSON
Last updated 05:00 01/06/2014
Mike and Ocean Brown
Fairfax NZ

CAN DO: Mike Brown's son, Ocean, helps prepare a trailer for his modified wave ski.

Mike and Kirstin Brown
DEAN KOZANIC/Fairfax NZ
PARTNERSHIP: Mike Brown’s greatest supporter is his wife, Kirstin.
Mike Brown
Fairfax NZ
Mike Brown on his modified wave ski at Sumner Beach in Christchurch.

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A paraplegic is training for the New York City Marathon alongside "a motley crew" of eight other Kiwis, including two amputees, three blind people, an asthmatic and a woman with cerebral palsy.

Mike Brown, of Christchurch, broke his back and lost the use of his legs in a skateboarding accident in Australia two years ago.

He started a blog soon after - Mike's Big Break - which initially described how hard it was to let go of all the activities he used to do, such as surfing, skiing, sailing, hiking, climbing and mountain-biking.

But nine months after his accident, and not one to cave to adversity, the 36-year-old St Martins man hit the waves in Sumner on a custom-made waveski.

And now, thanks to Peter Loft of the New Zealand branch of Achilles International, he has a new challenge.

A recent update on Mike's Big Break said: "When Peter . . . suggested I enter the New York City Marathon I knew I could not say no . . . after all, being paralysed from the waist down is just a minor inconvenience, right?"

Brown has entered the 42-kilometre November marathon along with fellow Christchurch man Rob Martin, who is an amputee, blind runners Hannah Pascoe, Laura Eitjes and Mike Lloyd, who also has Parkinson's, severe asthmatic Leanne Byers, paraplegic Ian Walker, amputee Tawera Nikau and Felicia Manase with cerebral palsy.

Martin, who has previously come second in the hand-crank cycle race section of the marathon, is being fitted with running blades to compete "upright" for the first time.

Achilles is a worldwide organisation, represented in 60 countries, and its mission is to enable people with all types of disabilities to participate in mainstream events.

The New Zealand branch has taken 175 athletes to compete in the New York City Marathon since 1993 and they all completed the 42km despite various disabilities.

Loft, the chairman and co-founder of Achilles New Zealand, said: "We do not accept disability as an excuse for failure. We do the New York marathon because that is where Achilles started . . . and it is a damn good one to do."

Brown said he was looking forward to meeting the rest of the athletes as well as the volunteers heading to New York with them.

"It is going to be great being part of a team [and] it is going to be amazing to see how the blind athletes run," he said.

But first, he will have to get used to the racing wheelchair Parafed Canterbury has loaned him.

Ben Lucas, a Christchurch-based former paralympian and the chef de mission for the 2016 Rio de Janiero Paralympic Games, is coaching Brown.

"Getting into [the racing wheelchair] is quite difficult, because I cannot stand up. I have got to twist my legs around and somehow back into it. I like the fact that I will be able to go quite fast, but steering it is something that I have not quite grasped yet," said Brown.

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Loft, who will run with Martin as support, said the athletes' reasons for "running, walking, hopping or wheeling" the marathon were the same as "all the other starters . . . and that is to get the finishers' medal and T-shirt".

"It has nothing to do with their disability [and] failure is not an option. We will get them to the start line; they have to get themselves to the finish," he said.

A fundraising page set up by Mike Brown for all the athletes is at givealittle.co.nz/cause/mikesbigbreak

- Sunday Star Times

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