CP Sport collected profiles from people with CP that have participated in physical activity during 2023. The profiles are being used to celebrate and showcase the activities that have been achieved in 2023.

Name: Harry Smith
Role: Athlete
Club: Leighton buzzard mixed ability rugby club, Leighton buzzard canoe and kayak club, Triline fitness and Milton Keynes athletics club
Which sports did you participate in during 2023: Runner, mixed ability rugby player, Kayaker, Skier
What was your biggest achievement in physical activity in 2023: In August, I ran my first 10k. I have always been someone who struggled with the idea that I am physically less capable than my peers. Running alongside and, to a certain extent, against able-bodied people was a psychological achievement as well as a physical one. This challenge started with parkrun in January and ended in 31° heat on the finish line of my first proper race.

How did you benefit from participating in physical activity throughout 2023: The sense of strength and determination I get from achieving something that, almost by definition as a disabled person, I shouldn’t be able to do is immense. For me, the extent of the achievement is not just physical. I am, perhaps due to my disability, a socially awkward person, never quite comfortable in my own skin. Runners, almost all obsessives, are always happy to discuss average paces or personal bests. This gives me ready-made topics of conversation.

It was during one such chat, while on holiday recently, that I was invited on their morning run. For most people, this would be a relatively innocuous gesture; however, for me, it represented a level of acceptance I never thought possible. I wish I could have opened up a window to my teenage self in his darkest and seemingly weakest moments and shown him this point in the future.

So strong are my feelings that the 40 minutes of running constituted a highlight, although for JP and Ingrid, I’m sure it was just routine, especially since later on the trip, they got engaged.

What would you like to achieve in sport in 2024: I have enjoyed improving my running so much that I would like to complete the classification process. This will allow me to start competing against others with disabilities, not just able-bodied people. It is sometimes challenging to measure the scale of one’s achievements alongside people with such different bodies.

What would you say to other people with CP that are thinking of trying physical activity in 2024:The world is not divided into Paralympians and the rest of us; CP and its effects are unique. Only you will know the limits of your abilities and current fitness. Tailor your achievements and goal-setting accordingly. Most achievement in sport is about experiencing the thrill of knowing you’ve done something that was previously unattainable. Therefore, someone with CP running 100 m could be more of an achievement than an athlete running 10,000 m.

For sportspeople, chasing that achievement can be something of a diminishing return the fitter you get. Therefore, my second piece of advice would be don’t be afraid to accept help. You may feel self-conscious or out of place at the time, but on reflection, you may find that you’ve helped them as well as them helping you. One of the fastest ways an experienced athlete can fulfill that feeling of achievement is to help facilitate it in others.

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