Wheelchair runner, Chaeli Mycroft’s Comrades Marathon experience
08 June 2016
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Brad Brown: Welcome back to yet another edition of Old Mutual Live, it’s awesome to have you with us . I’m so excited to chat to our next guest. History was made at the 2016 Comrades Marathon and in the build up to this year’s race we spoke to Hilton and Anita who were going to be running Comrades Marathon. Hilton was going to be pushing Anita in a wheelchair.
There were two wheelchair athletes that completed the Comrades Marathon for the very first time. We are super chuffed to have the second one on the podcast today, Chaeli Mycroft. Chaeli, welcome, nice to catch up and welcome onto Old Mutual Live.
Chaeli Mycroft: Thank you so much for having me.
BB: Chaeli, the dust has settled slightly from Comrades, has it sunk in yet that you finished the Comrades Marathon?
Comrades Marathon – just amazing
CM: Not yet, I think we did something incredible on Sunday and it’s quite an amazing thing to have achieved. I think we’re still trying to understand what happened on that day because it was just amazing.
BB: Chaeli, it’s one thing standing on the side of the road and watching the Comrades Marathon, but being a part of it is something very different and very special. I know I grew up as a little boy watching my dad run year after year and my first experience of being on the road and having the crowds cheering for you is, it’s difficult to put into words, I’m sure you’d agree?
CM: I think the whole experience is remarkable and the way that people are so supportive of each other and especially for us because there are a lot of up hills in the Down run. I think having the runners around us being so supportive and so excited that we were there, was just amazing.
BB: Talk to me about those up hills. I remember my first Up run, I thought people had been lying to me that this was the Down run. It’s pretty tough, particularly that first half. Let’s chat about your pilot and your co-runner who helped you on the day, pretty tough for him the first half of the Comrades Down run.
CM: I think that we went into the Comrades with a lot of naivety and I think it’s important to make amazing things happen sometimes. It’s better to not know what you’re getting into but James and Brett were just phenomenal.
I think the start of that race is very intense and it took a while for us to get into the rhythm of 89km. But I think we got there and we got there with the support and the gees of everybody on the road. That was just an incredible thing to experience.
Fellow runners support was immense
BB: Chaeli, what was your favourite part of Comrades Marathon race day?
CM: I think there are so many things that happened on that road, but I think the most amazing thing that stays with me, the most is that when we got to, I think it was about 5km to go. We caught up to the sub 11 bus and we decided that we needed to go through that bus to finish strong.
When they heard that we were coming as wheelchair athletes, they made a pass and we went through and when they saw us, they started applauding. It was just an amazing acknowledgement of what we had done and the fact that what we were doing was being appreciated by the other people on the road.
That was just a very emotional part of the race for us. There’s so many things, like doing, putting flowers on the Arthur’s Seat Memorial. Just those little things that make Comrades special, and it’s very special for us to be a part of that as well.
BB: Chaeli, the response we got from Anita and Hilton’s interview here on Old Mutual Live has been nothing short of phenomenal. I think that their story and your story have inspired many people to want to be better and do better. Let’s delve a little bit into your story and your background and your disability and why you are in the situation that you are today. Tell us a little bit about Chaeli Mycroft and your story.
Life is about having the right attitude
CM: So, I have cerebral palsy and it began as a neuropathy. But I’ve been raised to never see my disability as an obstacle. I’ve always been raised to see it as an opportunity to educate other people and to find new ways of doing things. I think people think that I am a remarkable person, but I think I’m just living my life the way that I want to. I’m doing things that I think would be cool to do and are important for me to do. I don’t want my disability to get in the way of that.
I really think that I’m lucky that I’m surrounded by people who feel the same way and are willing to change the way that they do things to make it possible for me to do them. That’s the message that I want my life to be; is that anything is a possibility if you can think of a new way of doing it.
BB: Chaeli, where did the idea, you’re saying anything is possible. But where did the idea of running Comrades start? Whose idea was it? How did you get roped into it or how did you rope other people into it?
The idea that sparked the Comrades dream
CM: I got roped into it because James Chevallier, my partner, my main runner, he wanted to do something epic. It’s an amazing thing because his dad was the first, he was the camera man for our first Carte Blanche interview. We’ve known him forever and I met James last year.
He and Tim had been speaking about doing something cool and we kind of latched onto the Comrades. Because the Comrades is something that everybody talks about being the most amazing race and we wanted to be involved. We entered and I think after we entered we read the rules and we realised that wheelchairs were not allowed in the race.
That was when it became about a lot more than just me doing the race. It became about making Comrades more inclusive. Making it available to us as people. We had a race before the race and that just made it so much more incredible for us to have a team that we did, in the amount of time that we had.
BB: Chaeli, I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news for you. Obviously you’ve done the Down run now, but every single Comrades runner in South Africa will tell you you’re not a true Comrades runner until you’ve done the Up and the Down run.
BB: Are you going back in 2017?
CM: My partners have committed to that, so I think I’m going to hold them to that. I think it will be a very different race. But I think the Down run in a wheelchair is quite a challenge, so we felt a lot of up hills. So we’re hopeful that next year we’ll feel a lot more of the downhills.
Chaeli Campaign – helping create full lives
BB: Chaeli, as far as some of the other things you do. I know you’ve got something called the Chaeli Campaign as well. You’re just so inspirational that it’s not just about you. You want to empower others as well. Tell us a little bit about the Chaeli Campaign?
CM: The Chaeli Campaign is 12 years old now. We started to, as a means of raising funds for a motorised wheelchair for myself and it’s morphed into an incredible organisation. Where we support young people with disabilities and their families and their communities.
It’s all about creating more awareness about the ability of people with disabilities. That’s our focus, is that everybody has ability, we just use it in different ways. We are so privileged to be able to help people in a special way.
The Chaeli Campaign has a ethos of helping one person at a time, so helping them in a significant way. We want to support people at different levels that they need help. Not simply providing wheelchairs and saying, have a good day. It’s about creating full lives and allowing people the opportunity to fulfil their own potential, whatever that may be.
BB: The website to get to if you want to find out more is chaelicampaign.co.za. We’ll pop the link into the show notes of this episode of Old Mutual Live. Chaeli, I was standing on the balcony of the members stands watching the finish when you came in and I will be honest, I shed a tear. I think it’s absolutely incredible what you guys have done and what you are doing. What you continue to do.
To put the spotlight on people with disabilities and just showing everyone that you’re no different. You have the same dreams and desires as everyone else. You can achieve things if you put your mind to it, you can do it. Congratulations on your first Comrades finish, we hope to see you get that back to back in 2017.
CM: Thank you so much.
BB: Thanks for your time today, it’s hugely appreciated.
CM: Thank you so much, I’m really excited to share with you.