Disabled team to take triathlon in their stride

Completing a triathlon is no mean feat for even the fittest able-bodied competitors.

Founding volunteer Alastair and team-member Shelly Moore.

But now an inspirational team of people with visual impairments and disabilities are ready to prove they have what it takes as they gear up for this weekend’s Skipton Triathlon.

The event on Sunday will be the second time Henshaws Society for Blind People has entered a team after six of its service users took part in the town’s first race of the year in April.

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Peter Mathieson, organiser of the challenge, said: “I’m really pleased to welcome the Henshaws team back to the Skipton Triathlon.

“Following their fantastic effort in April, we received a huge amount of positive feedback from people who were then inspired to enter.

“Our philosophy is based on pushing physical limits and stretching yourself in a fun and challenging environment – the passion of the Henshaws team epitomises this.

“They really are truly inspirational.”

The team – Tracey Clarke, 39; Michael Dawson, 37; Shelley Moore, 33; Samuel Garwood, 38; Jennie Hayes, 38; Steve Macdonald, 42; Rebecca Lobl, 40; Nick Cordier, 38; Debra Roberts, 45; and Danny Fryer, 32 – all have learning disabilities and some also have physical disabilities.

Seven members have a severe sight impairment and two have a sight impairment with some useful vision.

The challenges they face go far beyond fitness, with many of the simple tasks that come automatically to able-bodied competitors, such as climbing the pool steps, having proved a learning curve for them.

Team members will first swim 400m in Craven Swimming Pool, then ride 20km on a tandem bike around the surrounding area before a 5km run in Aireville Park, with each stage accompanied by sighted, able-bodied guides.

Swimming is one of the best activities for people who are visually impaired as it presents few barriers and obstacles.

Cycling training is done on a modified stationary bike with tandem rides outside while running requires a guide who may run alongside their partner, hold their elbow or use a short tether depending on their needs.

Volunteer Alastair Locke, who came up with the idea to enter and who oversees the team and its training, said: “Since we started training, I’ve noticed a real change in the attitudes of the team members.

“They are now fitter, more confident and more relaxed when completing other day-to-day activities – this was amplified after the first competitive outing.

“Everyone has put so much work into getting to this stage and the team have had to really push themselves out of their comfort zones. I am incredibly proud of them.”

Samuel Garwood, who has a severe visual impairment, competes in the cycling and running stages.

He said: “I was part of the team for the last event and it was an amazing experience.

“My mum and dad came to watch and, as well as being egged on by the other competitors all the way round, we got lots of cheers at the end.

“Our training has been great. Alastair and the rest of the volunteering team have been a huge support – building our confidence and improving our fitness with some creative training methods.”

Henshaws, which provides community housing and support services at five sites in the North including Harrogate and Knaresborough, said the team’s participation showed how people with visual impairments and disabilities could be helped to live independent, fulfilling lives.

The team is also helping to inspire other service users to exercise more regularly, it said.

The charity hopes taking part in the triathlon will also help it to attract more support and volunteers.

• Anyone who wants to help can contact the charity on 01423 541558, or to sponsor the team, visit ww.justgiving.com/henshawstriathlonteam.