From traumatic injury to new lease of life - meet the inspirational woman fighting back

·4-min read
Dr Julie McElroy is pushing for frame running clubs in Scotland
Dr Julie McElroy is pushing for frame running clubs in Scotland

SHE is someone whose ambition and determination to push herself to the limit has been an inspiration over the years.

Born with cerebral palsy, Dr Julie McElroy has surprised people around her for her whole life. Her parents were told she may never walk, but she defied the medical profession and went on to tackle mainstream sports and ride a bike by the age of 10.

However, a devastating incident five years ago left the 36-year-old in a wheelchair and stripped her of the fitness and sporting ability she had reached, and made her feel she had hit rock bottom.

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The loss of her fitness and also the impact on her wellbeing saw Miss McElroy, from Jordanhill, Glasgow, look to find another route to taking part in sports. It is how she discovered frame running through Victoria Park Athletics Club.

As well as having started training and taken up the sport, she has successfully helped the club secure a grant of £14,000 to buy four specially-made frame running trikes to help people with physical disabilities. She now hopes the sport will grow throughout Scotland.

 

Dr Julie McElroy hopes the sport will be more widely recognised
Dr Julie McElroy hopes the sport will be more widely recognised

Dr Julie McElroy hopes the sport will be more widely recognised

“I was left in severe pain and ended up in a wheelchair, and for anyone who knows me that just wasn’t me. My body was effectively ‘locked’. Up until then I had led such an active lifestyle,” said Miss McElroy. “I was left very fatigued and lost my ability to ride a two-wheeled bike and to get involved with everything I enjoyed.

“In the past 12 months I got involved in frame running at Victoria Park Athletics Club. My physiotherapist suggested it. I didn’t even know if I could do it after my injury, but my coach Gordon Innes, who is qualified to coach athletes with impairments in frame running and seated throws, trained with me and persevered.”

 

Dr Julie McElroy has been coached by Gordon Innes
Dr Julie McElroy has been coached by Gordon Innes

Dr Julie McElroy has been coached by Gordon Innes

Mr Innes worked with her on both sports and devised a training programme that has improved her fitness and rekindled her love for sports. Miss McElroy was able to transition from her wheelchair to enjoy the increased flexibility and now runs round the leisure track at Scotstoun Stadium, where the athletics club is based.

Miss McElroy added: “The trike is a three-wheeled frame with a saddle and body plate to support the athlete. The athlete propels themselves against the frame with their feet and steers with their hands or arms, because it has no pedals.

“Frame running is a very successful technique of improving general fitness, strength, and physical and mental wellbeing for people with cerebral palsy as a recreational exercise.”

 

Dr Julie McElroy hopes the sport will be more widely recognised
Dr Julie McElroy hopes the sport will be more widely recognised

Dr Julie McElroy hopes the sport will be more widely recognised

Among her list of achievements, Miss McElroy graduated with a PhD in assistive technology from the University of the West of Scotland and she is in the final stage of an Open University Masters in Business Administration.

Such was her love for sport, in 2012, she took on the mammoth challenge of trying her hand at all of the Paralympic sports featuring in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014.

Never one to sit back, she is already thinking of ways to make the sport of frame running more inclusive, and also of competing against her peers.

She is already looking ahead to see how the sport could be developed and reflected on a disappointing decision by the International Paralympic Committee last November not to include frame running as a category in the 2024 Games.

“That devastated many people already in the sport, but it also left me wondering about the decision,” she said. “There are 17million people across the globe who have cerebral palsy, so imagine the opportunities there might have been for them if the sport had been included.

“It would be my hope that we can achieve more, and perhaps in five years it might be recognised.”

 

Dr Julie McElroy says having the chance to take up sport again has been a game changer
Dr Julie McElroy says having the chance to take up sport again has been a game changer

Dr Julie McElroy says having the chance to take up sport again has been a game changer

Victoria Park club manager Mr Innes said the £14,000 grant, which has come from the Morrison Foundation, will allow many people with cerebral palsy to take part in frame running, while Miss McElroy said she is still in shock that the application was successful.

She added: “The hope is we can set up a frame running club. For me to be able to take up this sport after what happened to me, it has been a game changer and I want other people with cerebral palsy to have the same opportunity as me.

“It would be great to get frame running more widely recognised in Scotland and more integrated into sporting events and to be part of mainstream competitions. I see this kit as allowing me to run alongside my peers.”

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