Published by: Clink Street
Publication Date: 8th March 2018
The top wheelchair athletes of today enjoy the same high-profile exposure and admiration as their able-bodied counterparts. This has come about partly through wheelchair participation in mass fun-running events such as the Great North Run. Wheelchairs, Perjury and the London Marathon charts disability sports pioneer Tim Marshall MBE’s journey from the rock-climbing accident which left him paralysed, to becoming a trailblazer for wheelchair racing. The fun-runs of the 1980s enabled wheelchair road-racing to flourish, and Marshall took part in marathons and half-marathons where wheelchairs were welcome to compete. This did not, however, include The London Marathon, from which wheelchairs were banned for the first two years. This is the story of how this prohibition was overturned, told from the competitor’s point of view. Tim and many others campaigned for the inclusion of wheelchairs in The London Marathon in the face of huge opposition from the organisers. Finally, in 1983 the efforts of sportsmen and women, the press, the Greater London Council and members of parliament resulted in a breakthrough just ten days before the 1983 marathon, which at last agreed to wheelchair participation. Wheelchairs, Perjury and the London Marathon reveals the tenacity and resolve required to achieving sporting greatness in the face of adversity. Tim Marshall’s story — and the legacy he has helped build for disabled sports — are a testament to his love of racing and his passion for disability equality.
Tim Marshall presents his story from a climbing accident in 1972 to competing in the London Marathon in 1983 with 18 other disabled athletes. In that time he taught at Birmingham University and engaged in a variety of sports, joining early efforts to bring wheelchair marathons to the UK. Part of his journey involved a six week visit to the US, where the integration of sporting events and activities was more advanced, although getting there was a trial.
He later campaigned for the inclusion of a wheelchair contingent in the London Marathon, only to meet fierce opposition from the organisers. Their every argument against inclusion was ridiculous, and included out-right lying, but the organisers were stubborn until the Greater London Council got involved.
This book draws on the author’s memories, as well as letters and newspaper articles from Marshall’s archives. It is a fascinating book and an insight into conditions generally for wheelchair users in the 1970s and 1980s, while focusing specifically on racing and marathons. Times have changed but it is still possible to see the attitudes that prevented inclusion thirty years ago in people today, unfortunately.
A record of disabled sports history, of use to those interested in the subject and those wishing to understand how things have changed in the last 40 years, as well as holding up a mirror to current attitudes.
About the author: Tim Marshall was born in 1946 and gained an M.Sc in Statistics from the London School of Economics, working at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris before taking up a position at Birmingham University. His lectureship in the Medical School followed by his appointment as Associate Professor in Epidemiology and Public Health ended with his retirement in 2006. He has enjoyed a lifelong love of sport including wheelchair racing, skiing and sailing.