Sunday, 21 April 2024
Sunday, 21 April 2024

Police trainer aiming to raise charity funds with marathon wheelchair challenge

The power of friendship is pushing Devon police trainer Andy Elliott in his bid to complete the London marathon in a wheelchair.

Although able-bodied, Andy decided to tackle the 26.2 miles in a standard wheelchair to support his close friend Andrew Russell who was paralysed in a diving accident over 25 years ago.

The 50-year-old Training Course Manager with Devon and Cornwall Police is aiming to raise vital funds to support the charity Spinal Research in its mission to find a cure for paralysis.

Andy was at Exeter University in 1996 when his close friend and football team mate Andrew suffered a severe spinal cord injury after diving into a lake. His life changed in an instant. 

Andy supported Andrew throughout his initial hospital treatment and 10 months of rehabilitation at Stoke Mandeville Hospital and played a pivotal role in helping him return to Exeter to complete his degree by working for a year as Andrew’s study support.

And the two have remained firm friends. Andy from Exminster, who has been in the Police for 22 years, said:

“I’ve been so privileged to witness both the darker moments and the incredible resilience Andy has shown since his injury. 

“Not just overcoming the moments of physical and mental challenge, but helping so many in his situation along the way.

“This attempt to complete the London Marathon in a self-propelled wheelchair is a tribute to him and the many others who live day in, day out without the option to walk away.”

Although generally fit, Andy’s wheelchair training has been eye-openingly tough. He’s has also gained a real insight into the daily challenges faced by wheelchair users trying to negotiate poorly maintained pavements, kerbs and roads.

“I’m going out two or three times a week as well as doing rowing and cycling training but I don’t think I had any real idea of how hard this would be,” Andy added. 

“This whole experience is incredibly humbling. Even things like managing drop kerbs, finding footpaths inaccessible, negotiating potholes and parked cars has given me a small insight into the daily lives of thousands of people like Andrew.

“It’s very physically demanding and I’m under no illusion that completing the marathon will probably take me at least six hours. But at the end I can get out of the wheelchair and walk which is my motivation every day to keep going.” 

Every four hours someone in the UK is paralysed after a spinal cord injury. It can happen to anyone at any time. Spinal Research is the leading medical charity focused on the repair and restoration of the spinal cord with the goal of curing paralysis.

Andrew from East London works as Marketing and Communications Manager for the charity and said:

“When I was first injured, the notion of a cure for paralysis seemed like an impossible dream. Today there are treatments going through human trials delivering potentially life changing results.

“This research is not just about being able to walk. Being able to regain movement in my hands and arms, for example, would give me so much more freedom and independence.

“Andy is taking on an unbelievably difficult challenge, but the money he raises will go on to change the lives for people like me and the wider spinal cord injured community.”

To support Andy Elliott’s London Marathon wheelchair challenge go to


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