Cumbrian wheelchair athlete Simon Lawson is reflecting on his season and hopes support from the University of Cumbria will lead to even more success in his 2018 campaign.
Winning the Great North Run and setting a British marathon record were undoubtedly highlights; crashing out of the London marathon and getting a puncture just two miles from the finish while lying third were events he’d rather forget.
“There’ve been real ups and downs - not the best season overall although I’m happy where I was physically,” Simon said. “Now I’m training all winter to see if I get selected for the Commonwealth Games in Australia.”
Helping him towards peak fitness both physically and mentally will be students and staff from the University of Cumbria’s Sport and Physical Activity department. Simon is the first UoC Sport Ambassador and in return for a package of support from the university will help out with various marketing events and school trips, sharing a wealth of knowledge and life experience from his inspirational story.
The team already have a track record in helping Cumbrian sportsmen and women reach their potential – M Sport, Carlisle United, GB triathletes and many more are among athletes who have already benefitted from the Fusehill Street fitness laboratory.
Now it’s hoped Simon too will be able to make the most of the kind of expertise in Cumbria that will help him succeed on the other side of the world.
“It’s the start of a journey where we hope to be able to support Simon in whatever way we can,” senior lecturer in coaching and sport performance Jeff Thorpe said. “I think it’s an area that is lacking around here and we hope to help out with the additional elements that make a difference to top level performance like strength and conditioning, sports rehabilitation, blood testing, and sports psychology. We’re hoping this will be the start of a relationship where we can maximise Simon’s training and offer this kind supplementary support that athletes in our region typically find difficult accessing.”
Students too will make the most of the relationship offering practical as well as theoretical experience has set the University of Cumbria’s course ahead of rivals.
“We offer weekly rehab clinics each Tuesday evening which mean students get work with real people – with some clients at the top of their sport – which is fantastic for students,” Jeff said.
Winter training along the coastal paths and hills of west Cumbria may be a daunting experience but Simon says knowing he has a supportive team of experts backing him up makes the dark days of winter more bearable.
“Jeff’s already helped a lot with the psychological side of things after niggles and injury and now the sports science testing should help show where I am physically to show a base line and indicate where we need to work to really reach my potential,” Simon said.
The University has also launched a talented junior athlete programme, supporting 5 of the Cumbria Sports Awards Rising Star winners from the recent awards ceremony in Ambleside. It’s clear the enthusiasm from Jeff is abundant, himself a proud Cumbrian and former professional footballer for Carlisle United through the 1990’s.
“What this shows Cumbria and the wider region is that the university is very serious about helping our local athletes achieve at the highest level and we hope this will be the start of a long and successful period for Cumbrian athletes and teams,” Jeff said.