RACING through the hilly grounds of Blenheim Palace in the summer sunshine was no picnic.
But one competitor was all smiles at the end of the four-mile route after he smashed his personal best by 18 minutes.
Wheelchair user Edward McDonagh asked for the race to be opened up to disabled athletes so he could also join in. The 24-year-old, the first racer to take part in a wheelchair, crossed the finish line yesterday in 40 minutes and 52 seconds.
Mr McDonagh, of Bicester, said: “It was so much fun. I would love to do more of them. It was quite tough, mentally, but physically, it was a walk in the park. I would like to do a half marathon.”
Accompanied by trainer Johnathan Watson, Mr McDonagh was one of 800 competitors to break into a sweat around the Woodstock palace.
And his proud mum Anna McDonagh and dad Kerry McDonagh, both 56, were thrilled to see him cross the finish line. Mrs McDonagh said: “Edward did the most amazing time. Before, his best-ever was 58 minutes. Jonathan drove him to push harder than he had ever done before and the crowds were really supportive.
“They need another challenge now.”
Mr McDonagh, who suffered a brain injury in a car crash at the age of eight, propels his wheelchair forwards turning the right wheel with his right arm and pulling on the ground with his right foot.
Organisers of the annual 7km event devised a new four-mile route suitable for wheelchairs and buggies after Mr McDonagh lobbied them.
Nearly 1,000 people turned out on Sunday to cheer the racers on. Mrs McDonagh added: “It was a fantastic effort. When Edward finished, his whole body was trembling with exhaustion.”
Mr McDonagh has now raised £3,460 for the Children’s Brain Injury Trust, based in Bicester, which helped him.
In the 7km race, Alex Jones came first in 24 minutes and 10 seconds.
The fastest woman was Jessica Webb, who finished in 28 minutes and seven seconds.
Father and son Neil and Ethan Carter completed the four-mile buggy race in 24 minutes, 19 seconds.
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