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A Discussion of Wheel Chair Participation in Foot Races

December 4, 2010

In Manty’s “Being a Woman and Other Dissabilities” Manty spends quite a bit of time discussing whether or not disabled individuals should be allowed to compete in foot races. Specifically, he mentions the New York Marathon trying to ban persons in wheelchairs from participating or making them wait until runners have started.  As Manty discusses some feel the people in wheelchairs are faster than runners, or even pose a threat to runners because they take up more space on the road.

Personally, I agree that footrace and a wheelchair race would be separate events.   In September, my Fraternity (Pi Kappa Phi)  help a 5K wheel chair race to raise awareness for our national philanthropy organization PUSH America.  The goal of our event was to not only show ourselves, but those around campus the difficulties of life in a wheelchair race.  As someone who is very athletic (a hockey and lacrosse player) I greatly underestimated the sheer physical difficulty of this event.   It took me, and the other 40 brothers in the fraternity, about an hour to go a little more than three miles.  This was one of the single most difficult physical events I have ever participated in before.  My arms and shoulders were swelled more than any other sports game or work out session I have ever participated in before.

Thus, I feel that a wheelchair racers should be excluded from footraces because the two events require completely different skills and abilities.  A footrace requires a great deal of physical endurance including leg strength, while a wheelchair race requires an unbelievable amount of arm, shoulder and back strength.  After competing in the race I am honestly shocked that wheelchair sports do not get the repect they deserve because they require a kind of strength and power that no other sport requires.  These athletes who compete in wheelchair races, especially a wheelchair marathon, are absurdly talented athletes and deserve far more respect than they get from the mainstream sports world.  It is unfair to judge these individuals who compete in wheelchair marathons as anything less than world class athletes.  But at the same time, wheelchair sports are so different and require such a different skill set that does not make any sense to have athletes in wheelchairs compete against foot-racers  because they are not competing in the same sport at all.


  1. mbhilton permalink
    December 5, 2010 2:55 AM

    While I agree with you, they don’t have much of a choice do they? Since it is as you said, and the public doesn’t really recognize wheelchair sports, if they want to challenge themselves and enter a race, right now their only option is to intermingle with the runners. I don’t feel that banning wheelchair participants is the right course of action; rather, the operators should instead create a separate race if they want to divide the participants

    • December 6, 2010 11:07 AM

      I am not necessarily saying to ban people in wheelchairs from foot races. What I am saying is that a wheelchair race and a foot race require extremely different skill sets and are inherently not the same sport. I would actually like to challenge any non-handicapped athlete to try to compete in a wheelchair race and see how truly difficult it is. So yes, I agree with you that the operators should create a separate race for people who compete in wheelchairs because a wheelchair race and a foot race are completely different competitions.

  2. Mycki Kujacznski permalink
    December 5, 2010 4:18 PM

    I agree with you that foot races and wheel chair races should be two separate things because like you said, they almost aren’t even the same sport. However, until wheel chair races are more recognized and until there are more races available to people in wheel chairs, I don’t think they should be completely banned from foot races.

  3. Lorna Malja permalink
    December 5, 2010 5:26 PM

    Very interesting post! I agree with you i think that footraces and wheelchair races should be different events. I mean they both require such different abilities and it would be so much easier to seperate the two. They could still make the events on the same date just two different locations.

  4. lrib12 permalink
    December 5, 2010 6:29 PM

    I definitely agree that footraces and wheelchair races should be separate events because physically they take different abilities. From my experience of watching many sporting events wheelchair sports have not been touched upon by the media. The only thing I have noticed involving wheelchairs and athletics is the races and marathons you alluded to. The wheelchair participants always have faster times because–if trained enough–you will go faster on wheels. This is a similar debate to the runner in the olympics and the prosthetic leg.

  5. justinrostker permalink
    December 5, 2010 9:12 PM

    This is really interesting post and got me thinking. However, I disagree. While the skill sets are completely different for someone on foot or in a wheelchair, i think they should be allowed to compete against one another. I for one have not heard of someone in a wheelchair winning a race against someone in a footrace. They may beat some people in a race, but i have not heard of someone winning the race against everyone competing. If someone with a disability wants to compete and feels they can handle the race then they should be allowed to.

  6. tanoodle permalink
    December 6, 2010 8:59 PM

    I really enjoyed reading this post because it brought up a fairly common dilemma that often goes unnoticed by the general public; by people like us. I completely agree with you in the idea that these two types of races use completely different skill sets and should therefore be separated. And while I still agree that people should be allowed to separate them, I agree with what others have noted about the idea of taking the same event and splitting it into two parts: one for footraces, and one for wheelchair races. With this compromise, everyone can enjoy the same event, and yet there can be some separation. Unfortunately, some people may still feel alienated by this setup, but I feel that wheelchairs in a footrace can be considered unfair just like able-bodied men and women might be considered unfair in a wheelchair race. It goes both ways, and frankly, when they are combined it is often distracting for the participants.

    Also, I saw someone mentioned something about media coverage, and how wheelchair races don’t get as much of it. While I agree that this is almost unfair due to the strength, skill, and great ability of these wheelchair-bound athletes, I take on the Millian argument that opportunity is the most important thing afforded for equality. While people may not watch wheelchair sports as much, there isn’t anything that can really be done about it because even if someone advocated for it, there would not be enough viewers. The most important thing is that people have the OPPORTUNITY to participate in a wheelchair race, not how much recognition they get for it.

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