Wheelchair racer overcoming life changing injuries to take on Great South Run among those encouraging community to sign up for ‘amazing’ 2022 race

AN ‘INSPIRING’ wheelchair racer left paralysed after a life-changing accident is among those preparing for the Great South Run as the countdown to this year’s race begins.

Wednesday, 23rd March 2022, 4:55 am
Updated Wednesday, 23rd March 2022, 7:17 am

Hayling Island man Dale Muffett completed the 10-mile race in 2019, finishing two minutes over his target of one hour and 20 minutes.

Frustrated by his finishing time, Dale signed up to try again in 2021, as 2020's race was cancelled.

However, on New Year’s Day 2021, Dale was hit by a car whilst out jogging and was left with a spinal cord injury.

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Dale Muffett at Guildhall Walk. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Now, the 30-year-old is planning to take on this year’s event in a special racing wheelchair as he raises funds for a cause close to his heart.

Dale, who has been undergoing wheelchair race training using facilities at the Mountbatten Centre, said: ‘I am really looking forward to it, to race again. It'll be my first race in my wheelchair.

‘The Great South Run is such a great community event, the whole city comes out. I'd happily recommend anyone do it.'

He is hoping to raise £1,000 for Spinal Research to help find a cure for spinal cord injuries.

Emily England. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Dale has spent time learning about these injuries as part of an ‘educational experience’, and hopes to work for the charity.

He said: 'I'm going to be working with them, helping to obtain government funding to improve the UK's clinical trials.’

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Cllr Ben Dowling, cabinet member for culture, leisure and economic development at Portsmouth City Council, praised Dale as ‘a really inspiring character’ and said: 'To come back from what he's been through is something we can all learn from.'

Mia Elias, Charles Taylor, Barnaby Dougal and Paul Tilley from Portsmouth's university. Picture: Habibur Rahman

The councillor added that he feels ‘incredibly positive’ about this year’s race, set to take place in October.

He said: ‘Portsmouth has a long history with the Great South Run.

'We can't wait to see what records will be broken this year.’

Dale is not the only person preparing to take on the Great South Run for an important cause.

Dale Muffett. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Emily England, a mental health nursing student at the University of Southampton, is running to raise funds for mental health - but also to give herself a positive goal to achieve.

Emily said: ‘I developed an eating disorder, which got worse over the lockdown. I struggled to get the help I needed so I reached out to Beat and Mind.’

These charities provided crucial guidance for Emily, who set out to raise enough money to pay for a week of private sessions with a therapist - and has already smashed her £180 target.

Emily added: ‘I’ve never run the Great South Run before.

‘When I was really poorly I was running as a coping mechanism.

‘I wanted to do something healthy that wasn’t too obsessive - I thought I’d learn to exercise safely.’

Some of the participants of GSR 2022 at the Guildhall Steps. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Groups across the city are encouraging others to set themselves a challenge for 2022 and sign up for this year’s race.

The University of Portsmouth is hoping to sign up 300 staff and students to take part in the 2022 Great South Run in a recruitment drive launching today.

Paul Tilley, head of sport and recreation at the university : 'It's part of what we do at the university.

‘By having this amazing event on our doorstep, we can play our part in getting students and staff achieving.'

Mia Elias is welfare officer at Team UoP, a student run committee.

She added: ‘The race is a great opportunity for students to get out and get some fresh air, it's good for everyone's wellbeing.’

Members of the Southsea-based running group the Runbuds are also urging others to get involved.

The team of local mums started running during lockdown and have since become great friends, completing the Great South Run in 2021 and now looking forward to coming back in October.

Sheila Hill explained that the Runbuds have an average age of 50, and said: 'If someone said to me two years ago, you'll be running 10 miles, I wouldn't have believed it.

'It does show that anyone can do it.’

Last year, the Runbuds raised £4,000 for Cancer Research and the British Heart Foundation.

This year, they will be raising funds for the NICU at QA Hospital.

Runbud member Sarah Hoare's five month old son Theo spent three weeks in the NICU when he was born, shortly before last year's Great South Run.

Sarah, who kept running until she was 31 weeks pregnant, said: 'While they were all running, I was watching over Theo while following the race on my phone.

'We would encourage anyone to give running a go.’

Paul Foster, CEO of The Great Run Company which operates the Great South Run, said that an expected 20,000 runners will take part in this year's event.

He added: 'It was a massive relief to be back in 2021.

'This year is about building back - it's an important day for Portsmouth.

'We have got a lot to look forward to in October.

'Running is so important for people's health and mental health, and it's just a great day out.'

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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The Runbuds, who formed during lockdown, will be running at the Great South Run. Picture: Habibur Rahman