'Inspiring' cerebral palsy sufferer awarded Bradford Council B-Active honour

Wheelchair-bound aqua runner Mark Longstaff, who has cerebal palsy

Wheelchair-bound aqua runner Mark Longstaff, who has cerebal palsy

First published in News

A wheelchair-bound swimmer has received an award to honour his inspirational efforts to keep fit.

Mark Longstaff, 53, of Sticker Lane, Laisterdyke, Bradford, was born with cerebral palsy and did not learn to walk until he attended Lister Lane School.

As his condition deteriorated, Mr Longstaff, who has undergone more than 20 operations on his legs, was confined to a wheelchair at the age of 38, unable to take part in any weight-bearing exercise due to problems with his spine.

Keen to stay as fit and healthy as possible, Mr Longstaff started aqua running classes at Bowling Pool three years ago.

He has now been presented with a Bradford Council B-Active award aimed at recognising people who have overcome obstacles to physical activity and inspired others to lead healthier lives.

“This type of exercise proved to be ideal for me,” he said. “There’s no weight when I’m in the water so my legs are free to move.

“If it wasn’t for the aqua running classes I probably wouldn’t be here now. I’ve lost three stones since I started, but I still need to lose more.”

Buoyed by confidence from the classes, Mr Longstaff took part in his first open water lake swim in Wakefield last year, completing the course in 32 minutes, taking 13 minutes off his target time.

He also took part in the summer solstice swim at Ilkley Lido, braving the cold temperatures at 5:25am.

Away from his exploits in the pool, Mr Longstaff is a regular participant in the disabled bike ride organised by Bradford Disability Sports and Leisure – this year’s recipient of the Lord Mayor's appeal – held in Lister Park on Saturdays.

He also volunteers as a steward in the Bradford Park Run.

“Mark’s story and achievements are inspirational,” said Councillor Andrew Thornton, executive member for sport at Bradford Council.

“They also highlight the many different routes to health and fitness. Aqua running sessions are a great way for people with disabilities or mobility issues to get regular exercise.”

Sessions, which are open to anyone, are held at Bowling Pool on Mondays, 8pm to 9pm, Wednesdays, 1.30pm to 2.30pm, Thursdays, 7pm to 9pm, and Fridays, 7.30am to 8.30am.

Eccleshill Pool also hosts aqua running sessions on Mondays, 7pm to 8pm, Thursdays, 5.45pm to 6.45pm, and Fridays, 1.15pm to 2.15pm.

To nominate someone for a B-Active award, contact Andrew Burns at Bradford Council’s Sport and Leisure Service on (01274) 431882.

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