Gareth, along with an NFU Mutual work colleague, his cousin and two former Stratford-upon-Avon Rugby teammates, will tackle the 26.2-mile race in the inaugural year of wheelchairs being pushed by up to four runners. Two runners can push at any one time, with others a limit of 10 participants.

Gareth’s pushing power will come from his cousin Dr Darren Cooper; Wendy Woodhouse, a colleague from NFU Mutual; and from former Stratford Rugby teammates Richard Pepperel and Flo Vialan.

The 37-year-old is aiming to raise £5,000 for the RFU Injured Players Foundation, the charity having supported him since a spinal cord injury in 2011 while he was playing rugby for Stratford-upon-Avon Rugby Club. Playing for the club’s 1st XV away to Old Halesonians, Gareth took a routine ball but landed awkwardly and suffered a C4 dislocation and was paralysed from the neck down.

“There was nothing malicious in it, it was just the way I fell, and I instantly couldn’t feel my arms or legs,” said Gareth. “I knew something was wrong, but just not how bad. I was collected by an air ambulance and flown to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham where I was intubated for three weeks and then had a further five weeks in ICU.

“I was then moved to Stoke Mandeville Spinal Hospital in Aylesbury before being discharged in January 2012. As soon as the IPF heard from the rugby club, they were straight over to my parents and offered them and me all the support we would need,” said Gareth.

“They were incredible – from helping with various different funding to the purchase of a house, they have been amazing throughout it all.”

Gareth returned to his job at NFU Mutual, where the entrance was modified to make coming back to work easier, in December 2012 and has since completed a number of adventures including sky diving, skiing and touring New Zealand.

Training has been going well for the team – with Wendy and Darren experienced runners – and Gareth will be using a bespoke running wheelchair built by SA Mogg Ltd, who have produced the chair specifically for him.

“For me, it’s more about maintaining the condition of my skin to make sure I am able to be in the chair for the duration of the day without any complications,” said Gareth. “So although I am not doing any cardiovascular training, it’s quite a responsibility as I have a marathon entry and my team have trained hard to be there throughout with me.”

Gareths Racing Chair


Karen Hood, IPF Director, said: "We're honoured to be Gareth's chosen charity for the London Marathon. As one of the first people to be taking part in the race in a wheelchair pushed by his support squad, he is an inspiration to many, showcasing what is possible for our injured players.

"Gareth and his team will be raising vital funds for the charity, which will go towards supporting our players to live the life they wish to lead. We'd like to wish Gareth and his squad the best of luck and will be there cheering him along on the day."

For more information and to donate to Gareth's cause, visit his Big Marathon Push fundraising page.

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