Sue Martin and fellow members of the Amanzimtoti Cycle Club (ACC) recently took on the 24-hour Achilles Hope and Possibility Hand Cycling Relay Race, which took place at the Moses Mabhida Stadium People’s Park in May. The race required all participants, including cyclists without disabilities, to use a hand cycle.
“The relay race approach allowed participants with and without disabilities to work as a team to complete as many laps of the People’s Park one-kilometre track as possible within the allotted 24 hours,” Martin says. A roster of 15-minute intervals was given to the riders, with Martin as the first out the pen.
In 2015, she had an unfortunate mountain bike accident that left her paralysed from the chest down. She had joined the ACC in 2013, and after her injury she received overwhelming support from the club – especially from chairman Barry Walk. The ACC organises social rides for road or mountain bike enthusiasts on most weekends.
It caters for the majority of its members by providing events that are grouped for a range of fitness and skill levels. Anyone is welcome to join.
On the day of the race, Walk cycled more than 50 km! At the end of the 24 hours, the team had cycled a total of more than 3 500 km. “All the riders without disabilities were shocked at how hard it was on their arms, how much effort was needed, and have new respect for those who do the 100 km-plus races on these hand cycles,” Martin says. “Cyclists without disabilities don’t think twice about getting off to walk if the hill is too steep. Cyclists with disabilities simply can’t!”
According to her it’s important for people with disabilities to participate in mainstream events. “So often disability is not considered or included.”
Her favourite parts of the relay race? “The wind in my hair! Being outside among like-minded athletes working towards a worthy cause.”
All funds raised went to the Ethembeni School and Achilles South Africa, which aim to enable people with disabilities to participate in mainstream events – something ACC was very proud to be a part of.
Martin shares some advice for those considering taking up cycling: “Hand cycling is an excellent exercise for people who have limited functionality. It improves cardiovascular fitness but also strengthens the heart muscle and improves arm and core strength. It creates opportunities to be social, plus it challenges the physical and mental state.”