The ASB Auckland Marathon today (17 July 2018) announced an exciting new addition to New Zealand’s largest marathon event, with a pilot wheelchair category confirmed for the 2018 edition on October 28.
Race Director Bec Williams is delighted that months of hard work and planning has paid off, with great support from all stakeholders to get to this point, including Halberg Disability Sport Foundation, Achilles New Zealand, NZTA and ASB.
“This is hugely significant for the event and for our wheelchair racing athletes, bringing the ASB Auckland Marathon in line with many of the world’s iconic big city marathon events, with a wheelchair race leading the field away from the start line and taking in the spectacular route across the Harbour Bridge.
“We encourage our participants across all of our race distance options to ‘Run it your Way’, today’s news means we are able for the first time to include wheelchair and handcycle competitors in a pilot event that we hope leads to an open entry wheelchair event in 2019 and beyond.”
Halberg Disability Sport Foundation Chief Executive Shelley McMeeken says her team is fully engaged in the event.
“The Halberg Disability Sport Foundation is thrilled the ASB Auckland Marathon has included a wheelchair category into the event for 2018. The Foundation was approached by IRONMAN last year to discuss the inclusion of wheelchair athletes into the ASB Auckland Marathon,” said McMeeken.
“Our Halberg Adviser Dave MacCalman, who has international wheelchair marathon experience, began to work with the event managers to design a plan to include a pilot group for this year. Our Adviser is currently putting a list of seasoned wheelchair marathon athletes to make up the pilot group. We are very pleased with the progress made and believe the inclusion of wheelchair athletes will majorly enhance this premier sporting event. The Foundation’s vision is an inclusive New Zealand.”
Indeed, MacCalman expressed his excitement at the prospect of taking part in the pilot event, and watching it grow in the future.
“Riding over the Auckland Harbour bridge is going to be monumental – a real thrill. And I’m also delighted the event managers and ASB are so supportive of the inclusion of wheelchair athletes – thank you!”
It is not the first time that wheelchairs have been included in the Auckland event, but it is the first time wheelchairs have been part of the course that takes athletes across the Harbour Bridge to the finish line at Victoria Park.
Achilles New Zealand has a vision to provide New Zealanders with disabilities the opportunity to participate alongside able-bodied athletes in local, national and international events, and Chair Allan Smith was quick to acknowledge the ASB Auckland Marathon team for their courage and commitment to doing just that.
“We applaud and congratulate the ASB Auckland Marathon Race director Bec Williams and her team for having the courage and foresight to allow push rim wheelchairs and handcycle athletes in this prestigious event, this will certainly help the Sport grow in New Zealand and put the ASB Auckland Marathon up there with the leading marathons globally as a truly inclusive event.
“Achilles goal is to get people of all abilities moving forward, whether they run, walk, wheel or hop doesn’t matter as long as they are moving. By finishing and getting the medal that says they are a marathoner is Achilles way of breaking down barriers. Every time our athletes are recognised in such away is a victory for humanity, and that’s what Achilles is all about.”
The news is certainly buzzing through the wheelchair racing fraternity in New Zealand, with leading Kiwi Tiffiney Perry winning her category in New York (twice) and now having the chance to race at home.
“I am thrilled there will be such a high-profile event in New Zealand that I can take part in annually. As well as attending New York for the past two years, I have also competed around the world in various UCI paracycling World Cups and World Champs, but marathons have replaced these events as I have taken a step back from those competitions. I can’t wait to take part in the ASB Auckland Marathon as a wheelchair athlete and in an event that is in my own backyard.”
Brendon Stratton has raced extensively in a number of categories overseas and in New Zealand, the North Shore resident was at the launch and spoke of a huge step forwards, not just for those racing, but for everyone in wheelchairs.
“The more chances available to demonstrate our abilities and strength, the less we are judged for our perceived ‘disability’. Well done ASB Auckland Marathon for moving towards greater acceptance.”
The news has resonated strongly with one of the events Charity Hero partners in the CatWalk Trust. Chairman David Pretorius, whose 15-year-old daughter Holly suffered a spinal cord injury in a car accident in 2010, applauds the move by race organisers.
“It is vital that wheelchair athletes be given every opportunity to lead as normal a life as possible. I am enormously grateful to the Auckland Marathon race directors for pursuing a pilot wheelchair race, and I look forward to it becoming a regular fixture in one of New Zealand’s most iconic endurance events.”
As principal sponsor of the ASB Auckland Marathon, ASB is excited to again be part of the world-renowned sporting event and to mark the inaugural wheelchair race with a special gift.
“The ASB Auckland marathon is all about progress - seeing people set their own personal challenges and achieve them. It’s a sporting event for all Kiwis who are driven by a desire to succeed, no matter their ability,” says head of community and sponsorship Mark Graham.
“In that spirit, different race distances have been added over the years and we’re thrilled by the inclusion of a wheelchair category,” he says.
“In recognition of this new category, ASB is giving away a custom-built racing wheelchair which we hope will help someone be part of this historical event.”
2018 is a pilot event, with all competitors invited to the start line in consultation with Halberg Disability Sport Foundation and Achilles New Zealand, with organizers looking at progressing to an open race category in 2019.