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Achilles athletes take on the New York Marathon

Petone man Richard Warwick and Kaiwharawhara woman Kelly Smith are part of the Achilles International New Zealand team of eight disabled athletes taking on the New York Marathon in November this year. Achilles supports New Zealanders with disabilities to participate in mainstream running events, and every year sends a team of athletes to run, walk or wheel around the annual New York Marathon. It's a prestigious and epic event, with participation coveted by many, as over 50,000 runners make their way through crowded New York City streets.

Richard Warwick has been pounding the streets of Petone and Wellington with his guide, CEO of Cigna NZ Lance Walker, in preparation for the Marathon. Thirty five years ago at age 16, Richard suffered a brain bleed which paralysed the left-hand side of his body. “I was told my days of running were over, but at age 50 I was encouraged to get involved with Achilles and I haven’t looked back,” says Richard. Building up the stamina to be able to take part in events has been a challenge for Richard and his first goal was simply to walk up Maungaraki Hill. But all the practice has paid off for the Territory Manager and father of five - the New York Marathon will be Richard’s fifth event with the support of Achilles.

Achilles pairs athletes with a guide to offer support and ensure their safety. Lance Walker has guided Richard in a number of events, including Cigna Round the Bays, since Cigna NZ partnered with Achilles in October 2014. As part of this partnership, Achilles became the official charity of Cigna Round the Bays. “Training with Richard has been great, really interesting and inspiring. He’s a role model for getting out and giving it a go, and not letting any physical or mental barriers stop you,” says Lance.

Kelly Smith has been a keen runner all her life, but in 2013 the BNZ IT Manager developed an autoimmune disorder that caused her immune system to attack her nervous system. Kelly now has upper body disabilities, nerve damage and suffers from pain and fatigue, but still has full use of her legs. “I am still under medical supervision and strong medication and it’s going to be a long journey (if ever) back to my old self. However luckily enough my legs are still good so I can continue to do what I love doing – running!” says Kelly.

Kelly’s Achilles guide is head of the Wellington Achilles Chapter Naomie Lye, and the two have completed several runs together including Cigna Round the Bays and the Wellington Half Marathon. Naomie, a Marketing Executive at Cigna, has been busy organizing fundraising events for Achilles. It costs more than $5,000 to get each athlete to the New York Marathon. Cigna employees have been fundraising throughout the year to help the team, and Cigna will also make a financial contribution

You can support the Wellington Achilles team at https://givealittle.co.nz/fundraiser/teamwellington