After landing medals at the IPC World and European Championships and representing Great Britain in the London 2012 Paralympics, sprinter Sophia Warner is now part of the team behind Parallel London - the world's first mass-participation running event for disabled and able-bodied people to take place in London. 41-year-old Warner, who has cerebral palsy, tells us how she found her feet in the running world.
How did you get started in running? Were there any roadblocks to your success?
I always really enjoyed running. My brother, who wasn’t disabled, was a really good cross country runner so I used to head out with him. We were all quite sporty and competitive as a family.
I was spotted at a 10K and didn’t realise how good I was. There were limited opportunities even them, only 100m or 200m at any level, which is rubbish if you’re a distance runner like me. I didn’t have much choice but to take up strength training, but I was amongst other people. I went from being behind everybody to being in front of everybody, so I took a lot of pleasure in that. Disability sports have moved on a lot. There weren’t many opportunities to take part, especially as an elite.
You’ve joined Parallel London as partnerships director – what are you most excited about with the event?
There are a couple of things that I’m really excited about. It’s going to be four years on exactly from when the Paralympians were racing on that same ground at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. It shows what a legacy London 2012 has had – four years ago, this event wouldn’t have had the same sort of clout, so it speaks volumes… It’s also great to be on the other side of it and see what it’s offering for children and other disabled people.
What would you say to a person with a disability who wanted to take up running (or another sport) but wasn’t sure how?
You can always go down to your local running club. Running has become more and more popular. Whether you’re running or pushing, you don’t have to have all the fancy equipment to get involved. Parallel London is an opportunity to have something to train for. It’s meant to be fun, but you’ve got to have a goal to get motivated and this is a great goal for someone with a disability.
What do you think people with disabilities can gain from sports, whether they get involved with running, swimming or something else?
You’re happier, fitter, slimmer – it’s no different to the benefits for an able-bodied person!