Three days a week, Jennifer Maxwell takes her wheelchair to the Gorge Waterway and wheels the roughly six kilometre distance.
Her first trip along the waterway, she noticed several small hills, making it difficult for anyone in a wheelchair to travel up the incline.
“I wasn’t confident, I didn’t know if I had the muscle to do it. When you’re on that incline, if you’re not going forward you’re going back, literally,” Maxwell said.
Instead of turning back, she asked a woman who was walking her dog if she could spot her in case she rolled backwards.
“Knowing that I had that backup, I just went for it. I was like ‘I can do this’. I definitely worked up a sweat,” she laughed.
But Maxwell is not in a wheelchair permanently.
The Saanich resident and recreational runner is training for her first GoodLife Victoria 8 km road race on Sunday, Oct. 11, which she’ll complete in a wheelchair.
As part of the race, she is raising money for MOVE Adapted Fitness and Rehabilitation Society — a non-profit accessible gym facility for people with disabilities on Yates Street.
Maxwell has been volunteering every other Saturday since January and wanted to help raise money for the gym that runs solely on fundraisers and membership fees.
One day, she had a “flash of insight” and decided to see how the people she works with feel on a daily basis.
Since receiving a wheelchair (on loan) two weeks ago, she has been training every other day in preparation for the upcoming race.
“It’s putting yourself in an uncomfortable situation, both physical and psychological. Being in a chair, you’re lower to the ground you feel more vulnerable,” she said, noting she was extra cautious when crossing roadways. “My ability to move quickly in a chair is quite a bit limited compared to being on foot.”
She said the experience has been rewarding, but doesn’t compare to the challenges people in wheelchairs face all the time.
Joanne Rogers, volunteer secretary with the board, said the money raised goes towards MOVE’s subsidy program for people who can’t afford memberships and to purchase specialized adaptive equipment.
“I think it’s really admirable. It’s going to be an awful lot of work. For somebody to put themselves out there and put themselves in place of people that can’t, I think it’s a really great cause,” she said.
So far, Maxwell has raised just over $2,000 of her $5,000 goal for MOVE. Donations can be made to pledge.at/JMaxOnARoll.
More than 12,000 people are expected to participate in various distances at the 36th annual GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon this weekend. It is one of the largest marathons on Vancouver Island.