London Marathon 'discriminates against assisted runners'

By Peter Coulter

  • Published
Media caption,
London Marathon accused of discrimination

London Marathon organisers have been accused of discrimination over their policy of excluding assisted runners.

David and Sandra Kerr from County Down have run 35 marathons pushing their son, Aaron, in his adapted wheelchair.

The Kerr family had asked London Marathon organisers if they could compete but were told it would be against the rules.

"An individual cannot be considered unless they are participating under their own power," said organisers.

Aaron Kerr, 21, from Annahilt, does not speak, communicating solely through body language.

He has a series of complex needs including cerebral palsy, epilepsy and a chromosome disorder which means he uses a wheelchair.

Aaron was also born with chronic renal failure which resulted in a kidney transplant at the age of 13; his dad David was the donor.

Keep on running

David and Sandra are Aaron's full time carers and in 2015 they caught the running bug.

Image caption,
The family has completed in almost 150 running events, including 35 full marathons

"We started running in 2015 with a few park runs and we haven't looked back since, we haven't stopped running since," said David.

The family has completed in almost 150 running events, including 35 full marathons, such as Manchester, Belfast and Dublin.

They couple try to promote inclusivity and say their slogan is "running and rolling together".

"We just love spending time together as a family, it's quality time for us," said Sandra.

"It's great seeing Aaron about in the fresh air.

"For kids with complex needs, as they get older, stuff gets taken away from them, and it's hard to find things that as a family you can enjoy.

"The only thing that doesn't go away is disability."

The family has wanted to take part in the London Marathon, but so far that hasn't been possible.

"It's incredibly frustrating, the reason that they are giving to us is that Aaron can't complete the marathon on his own," said David.

IAAF rules state: "A competitor can be helped to an upright position, but that they cannot be helped in a forward motion."

'Very upsetting'

The Kerrs say they have taken part in other IAAF events and aren't bothered about being competitors - they just want to take part.

"We've spoken to the IAAF ourselves and they have said that Aaron can take part as a non-participant (meaning his time would not be counted) at London's discretion," said David.

Image caption,
The Kerr family is continuing to train for marathons that they are able to part in - starting with the Belfast City Marathon next weekend

"We just see it as discrimination against Aaron and it's very upsetting."

The family had hoped to run in a charity place with the Mae Murray Foundation, but when it found out that the Kerr family would not be allowed to enter the charity declined their offer to take part.

The group's director, Alix Crawford, called on London Marathon organisers to explain "why it is lagging behind other major marathons by continuing to exclude certain disadvantaged groups of people from within society from taking part.

"It is astonishing that the London Marathon, one of the UK's flagship sporting events, should take a stance against the inclusion of those with profound and lifelong disability," she said.

The charity has protested by giving up its space and has asked London mayor Sadiq Khan to intervene.

Nick Bitel, Chief Executive of London Marathon Events Ltd, said organisers had explained the rules to the family "in some detail".

"An individual cannot be considered a competitor in the London Marathon unless they are participating in the event under their own power," he said.

"Some races do permit non-competitors to be pushed or carried. Every race is different. The London Marathon has high runner density, some very narrow roads on the course and some steep hills.

"This is a combination that other events may not have.

"London Marathon Events is proud of all it has done to develop and promote para-sport and always works to encourage participation in our events by people with a disability.

"We support many, many people with a disability to complete the London Marathon - just not when they are being pushed by another person, as this contravenes the rules."

In the meantime, the Kerr family is continuing to train for marathons that they are able to part in - starting with the Belfast City Marathon next weekend.

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