Some of you might know I enjoy a challenge. Something to push me, to take physical limitations and see what I can do with them. Some of these challenges have hopefully made people think about what I and perhaps they are capable of. Maybe think about what limitations are imposed on them and where those limitations come from – whether that be from within or from external sources. I have been told by a few people that some of what I’ve done is inspirational and that’s awesome – the thought that something you do can have an impact on someone else is mind-blowing.
Now usually when I sign up for or arrange these challenges it’s relatively straightforward. I follow whatever process is in place and fill out paperwork etc, hand over whatever details are requested and sometimes have a chat with someone about any adaptations that might be needed to allow me to participate. That last bit can be essential for reasons of health and safety or just to make life easier for either me or for other people and it’s not something I mind in the slightest – I would much rather people ask me than make assumptions or guess and get it wrong. So that’s all easy and then at the allotted time I turn up, do the necessary (hopefully successfully). have some fun and meet some amazing people, tire myself out and then go home again. Sometimes there are interviews with press and TV or radio people as well.
In this modern age disabled people can be seen all over the place. We work, we have relationships, we socialise and we do sport and so on. Basically just living a modern lifestyle based around our interests, same as everyone else. We have this year had a fantastic time for sport in particular with the Paralympics being a lot more visible than ever before and according to research changing a lot of opinions among members of the public towards disabled people.
So imagine my shock when, given the above, I signed up to take part in the 2013 Edinburgh Marathon and then the next day signed up to do the Edinburgh 5K wheelchair race being held the day before the marathon and, after receiving emails confirming my entries had been accepted I then received one telling me I wasn’t allowed to take part in the marathon as they didn’t allow wheelchairs onto the course. Here’s how it went…..
From: Lady at GSI Events Sent: 29 November 2012 09:46 To: email@example.com Subject: Edinburgh Marathon Festival 2013
I was just having a look at your entry for next year and noticed that you have entered both the standard marathon and the 5k wheelchair race? Could you confirm which race you wish to take part in (the full marathon doesn’t have a wheelchair option)?
And my reply to that was:
From: Daniel Anderson-McIntyre Sent: 29 November 2012 09:53 To: Lady at GSI Events Subject: RE: Edinburgh Marathon Festival 2013
I was hoping to do both. I am a wheelchair user and there’s nothing on the marathon page about wheelchairs being excluded.Dan McIntyre
So the next contact I had was with another lady whose signature says she’s an events manager, this is what she had to say:
From: Lady 2 from GSI Events Sent: 29 November 2012 10:21 To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Edinburgh Marathon Festival
I’ve been passed your email from the marketing team. Thanks for your interest in the Edinburgh Marathon. Unfortunatley there is not a marathon wheelchair race. UKA rules state that any wheelchair or handbike race must be separate from a running race and due to the road closure timing restrictions we are not able to facilitate a wheelchair or handbike race for the half or full marathons. We do not have the same restrictions for the 5K race.
I am sorry that we are not able to offer the marathon race however I hope that you enjoy the 5k race on the Saturday.
So I got hold of an up-to-date copy of the UK Athletics regs and read them top to bottom paying particular attention to the sections on road races and the amendments for disabled participants. Finding nothing to corroborate what this lady had told me I responded
From: Daniel Anderson-McIntyre Sent: 30 November 2012 10:24 To: Lady 2, Lady 1 at GSI Subject: RE: Edinburgh Marathon Festival
Having read the UKA rules for road races and the rule amendments for disability athletics (rules 201-215 and rules D206-D212) I am unable to find anything to corroborate your comment “UKA rules state that any wheelchair or handbike race must be separate from a running race”. I wonder if you could point this rule out to me?
And the reply I got was:
From: Lady 2 Sent: 30 November 2012 14:54 To: Daniel Anderson-McIntyre CC: Lady 1 Subject: Re: Edinburgh Marathon Festival
Thanks for your email. I have spent some time going through the rules this morning and you are completely correct – it doesn’t need to be a separate race just a separate category. We start hand bike and wheelchair athletes at the front of the race so that there are not wheelchairs or hand bikes interspersed in a mass of runners reducing the risk of injury to all participants. The 5k has a lane designated so that on the downhill section where the wheelchair and hand bike participants generally reach higher speeds.
Due to health and safety issues, we can’t allow a wheelchair category in the full marathon however I can investigate this for the half marathon further. Can you let me know if you are interested in racing in the half marathon and if you are what time you would expect to complete the race in, that you would be racing in a self propelled wheelchair and the spec of this wheelchair (for example standard or racer).
Now this was really annoying as it makes assumptions about responsibility and control, basically says I would be a health and safety risk and also attempts to persuade me to enter a lesser event. So my response to this was terse:
From: Daniel Anderson-McIntyre Sent: 04 December 2012 10:19 To: Lady 2 CC: Lady 1 Subject: RE: Edinburgh Marathon Festival
Lady 2 and Lady 1,
No, I am not interested in taking part in a half marathon. If I had been then I would have entered and paid for that event.
I have registered and paid to enter the marathon and the 5K. At the time of entry (and, having just checked, still) there is nothing in the event details to say that I may not do this. Looking at the terms and conditions again there is nothing that says I cannot and in fact the terms and conditions state that the only wheeled devices allowed on the course are wheelchairs.
So far you have quoted a non-existent UKA regulation to me and now you are trying to use “health and safety issues” as an excuse for not allowing me to participate. This is beginning to sound like deliberate obstruction aimed directly at a disabled person.
This was met with an out of office message advising people with queries to contact several other names, so I forwarded the above to all the addresses given. Over a week later I had still had no response so followed it up with:
From: Daniel Anderson-McIntyre Sent: 12 December 2012 12:36 To: Lady 1, Lady 2, Several other team members Subject: FW: Edinburgh Marathon Festival
8 days after the below I have not had any response. Would someone kindly let me know what the plan is moving forward?
The last contact I had was on Facebook when someone asked me to message them, which I did. The reply I received was “Thanks Dan” which is no use to anyone.
Am I to be allowed to participate in these events or not? If yes then please say so and if not please arrange for a refund of all fees paid and I will contact a solicitor.
I would appreciate a response by close of play today.
Now whether it was the mention of a solicitor that did it or not I don’t know but 7 minutes later I received the following:
From: Lady 2 Sent: 12 December 2012 12:43 To: Daniel Anderson-McIntyre Subject: Re: FW: Edinburgh Marathon Festival
Apologies for the delay in responding to you, we have been chatting to Run Britain and the race director to come up with some guidelines and what would be required to accommodate wheelchair athletes on the marathon course.
If you can bear with me until early next week so that I can fully respond with all the information. It would probably be easier to give you a call, would you be able to give me the most convenient number to call you on and we can chat through it early next week?
Now this is starting to sound more positive but I prefer to keep things like this to written communications. Telephone calls are not only painful for me but are a great tactic often used by managers in order to avoid gathering of evidence. With this in mind I waited for them to come back to me via email with more info. After waiting until the back end of the following week I got back in touch with them:
From: Daniel Anderson-McIntyre Sent: 19 December 2012 22:06 To: Lady 2 Subject: RE: Edinburgh Marathon Festival
Hi Lady 2,
It’s now late next week and I’ve heard nothing. This has been going on for almost a month now and is becoming ridiculous. I really must push for a resolution asap. Not only is this getting extremely annoying but I also need to make plans as the intention is to fundraise for a Cancer support charity through this event, a JustGiving page was created when I received the confirmation email and has already had donations.
I find it difficult to understand what the problem is and why GSI Events seems intent on excluding disabled participants, particularly given the sporting achievements we have seen this summer.
I wonder what view the Edinburgh News and BBC Edinburgh would take…?
And very quickly I received a response, sent from her iPhone no less:
From: Lady 2 Sent: 19 December 2012 22:44 To: Daniel Anderson-McIntyre Subject: Re: Edinburgh Marathon Festival
I tried to call you on the number that you gave us on our system however it just rang but was going to try again in morning as it was quite late on Monday and Tuesday I called.
Basically I’ve spoken with the race director and he doesn’t see an issue but there is a section of the course later on that I wanted to just alert you to as its not Tarmac, it’s a gravel surface, we fill in any large holes but it was just to say its not as good a surface as normal roads. As long as you’re fine with that then we don’t see any issue. Was going to ask as well if you plan to have someone with you as you complete the race?
Will try you again in the morning if you want to chat anything through.
Lady 2Sent from my iPhone
And my response (after heaving a sigh of relief and wondering why they didn’t just do this in the first place) was:
From: Daniel Anderson-McIntyre Sent: 20 December 2012 08:34 To: Lady 2 Subject: RE: Edinburgh Marathon Festival
Thank you. The gravel shouldn’t be a problem and I may have my Fiancee with me but I’m not sure at the moment.
And after this the entire tone of the communications changed. I don’t know whether anyone had “had a word” with this lady or what but she’s suddenly become very helpful:
From: Lady 2 Sent: 20 December 2012 12:06 To: Daniel Anderson-McIntyre Subject: Re: Edinburgh Marathon Festival
Just tried to give you another call but no answer, just checking that I have the correct number xxxxxxxx269?
Anyway glad that the gravel won’t cause you any issues. It all sounds very romantic completing a marathon together but hard work!!
If you need to chat anything through or ask any questions then just ask, my number is xxxx xxx xxxx or you can email me, whatever suits you.
Good luck with the training and Merry Christmas when it comes.
So she got the wrong end of the stick about my meaning but when I pointed that out I got another surprise:
From: Daniel Anderson-McIntyre Sent: 20 December 2012 12:27 To: Lady 2 Subject: RE: Edinburgh Marathon Festival
Hi Lady 2,
The number is correct I just can’t answer as I’m at work. My fiancee won’t be doing the marathon with me, I’m hoping she’ll be there to see the start and end and also transport my normal wheelchair between the 2 points.
Thanks – Dan
And the surprising and helpful bit:
From: Lady 2 Sent: 20 December 2012 12:45 To: Daniel Anderson-McIntyre Subject: Re: Edinburgh Marathon Festival
Ok no problem. Give me a shout nearer the time and I’ll get a parking space sorted out nearby for her to go to.
So all’s well that ends well and I am able to make this my big challenge for 2013, but why does it feel like it’s been a challenge already and why, in this day and age, should that have been?
I'm a writer and reviewer, IT bod, wheelchair user, partner and stepdad.
I'm in South Yorkshire, England but my spiritual home is the Scottish Highlands.
I mostly write about motoring, disability and employment.
View all posts by Dan McIntyre
2 thoughts on “The Challenge is to be Accepted for The Challenge”
Excellent news Dan. I’m so glad you fought your corner, not just for your personal goal but for others as well. Well done. Any help you need on the day, gimme a call…I’ll be there for you.
Cheers Mark. I’m glad I didn’t just accept what I was told as well, like I used to.