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Paraplegic Ian Walker will use the might of his arm muscles to power himself on a hand-cycle through the ASB Christchurch Marathon on June 4. He tells Rachel Grunwell the “whys” behind tackling the difficult challenge.

ian buller pic (low res)

“Never allow what you cannot do to stop you from doing what you can do.”

That’s why Ian Walker will be out amongst the chill and crowds of the ASB Christchurch Marathon course on June 4. It’s also his motto for life.

“Life can get tough physically for me at times. But you’ve got to persevere,” says the 54-year-old Cantabrian football referee coach. “The secret is to keep trying and never really give up”.

Another strong reason for doing the event is: “It’s about being accepted… accepted as part of the community. I want people to know that being in a wheelchair shouldn’t make me less of a person and that I shouldn’t be treated any differently… I guess what I’m trying to say is: I’m no different…

“Look, it’s nice for people to offer to help me sometimes, but 99 times out of 100 times I’ll say, ‘thanks, but no thanks’.”

Ian would love to finish the event in under 2-hours. However, he knows this might be tough to achieve given the uneven terrain near the Red Zone. This area will slow him down.

This will be Ian’s third hand-cycle-powered marathon. He did the New York Marathon three years ago and the Buller Gorge Marathon earlier this year.

It will be his 13th marathon. He ran 10 marathons when he was able-bodied. His fastest run time was clocked at 2hr 37min in Buller in 1999.

The moment Ian’s life changed forever was at 7.30am on a bright and sunny say on December 6, 2006.

He was cycling over a bridge on the Napier/Hastings Highway at 50km when he went head-first into the back of a truck-and-trailer.

The injuries were devastating and included a spinal cord injury and concussion, just to name some.

“The helmet saved my life. I was lucky; I could’ve been a tetraplegic”.

In everyday terms, Ian has no feeling from the chest down and is wheelchair-bound. He does have some movement in his left foot.

“For some time, on reflection, I felt quite bitter about the accident. However, I’ve come to accept it was an unfortunate set of circumstances that culminated in a devastating conclusion”.

He spent months in the Burwood Spinal Unit in Canterbury recovering afterwards. That’s where he first saw that sign – his adopted motto. It’s on a plaque in the kitchen that reads:

Ian's motto correct


Ian wishes he could reverse that day, rewind the clock, freeze that moment in time and change it somehow.

“Not a day goes by where I wish I could walk. I’m 6ft2 and I can’t reach stuff on the tops of shelves at the supermarket. It’s the little things that are so hard. But I live with acceptance better now”.

It has been a hard road to recovery including nine major operations, pain medication therapy, physio and regular medical checks. He can do “every day” things.

That includes powering his hand-cycle at speed. He has been training for the Christchurch event using his hand-bike, but also goes to the gym and swims (using an inflatable belt around his middle).

He credits his partner Louise as his anchor and “constant in life. Without her “most of what I do and achieve wouldn’t have been possible”.

Speaking of that word “possible”. Ian says by participating in the ASB Christchurch Marathon, he hopes to show other Kiwis with disabilities that events like the marathon are possible to take part in.

“I want to show that being in a wheelchair doesn’t mean the end of getting out and being involved in the community and be involved in events like this. It’s for runners, walkers, everyone. We are all there for that finish-line feeling”.

The ASB Christchurch Marathon is a fundraiser for Ian’s wish to tackle the NY Marathon Achilles this November. Please consider donating. CLICK HERE



Ian mastering a cool “selfie” above. 

+ Find out more about entering the ASB Christchurch Marathon. Click HERE.

Rachel's Blog She collaborates with some of NZ's biggest brands.

Blog by Rachel Grunwell who will be running her 18th marathon at the ASB Christchurch Marathon. She is the official blogger for the event. Follow her via the Inspired Health’s Facebook and Instagram pages for more inspiring stories, wellness advice, recipes and awesome health-inspired giveaways.

Blog by Rachel Grunwell: Writer, Good magazine’s wellness columnist + smoothie chick, passionate marathoner (Christchurch Marathon will be her 18th marathon) & yoga teacher (who teaches yoga-for-runners). Follow her via Inspired Health’s Facebook & Instagram for lifestyle inspo, recipes & giveaways.

Meanwhile, read about another inspirational ABS Christchurch Marathon participant Blair Williamson (pictured below) who is going for a Guinness World Record attempt. Click HERE. 

Blair & Rubik's cubes