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How parkrun helped amputee Paul Webber regain his fitness and make new friends

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When Paul Webber attended his first parkrun roughly 12 months ago, he went with no expectations of completing the 5km course.

Paul was heading down to the event to volunteer, having heard about the event from his daughter Holly, who is an avid parkrunner.

The next thing he knew, he was in the midst of a supportive and welcoming community, one that has helped him smash fitness goals that he didn't think would be possible a year ago.

His story may sound like that of any other parkrun enthusiast who enjoys their Saturday morning run or walk, but Webber's story is incredible when you consider he's doing it all with just one leg, having lost his right leg in a motorcycle accident 37 years ago.

Now a staple at his local parkrun in Warragul, West Gippsland, Victoria, Webber explains it was never about getting a fast time, but about meeting people.

"I knew where the start line was and staggered down one Saturday morning with Holly," Paul said.

"The tail walkers said, 'Come for a walk,' so I did 3km, then went home and died."

"Then I knew where the course actually was and came down on a Wednesday to give it a go and did the 5km, which took me about an hour and a half. Now I’m doing it in about 52 minutes."

A man with one leg is using crutches to compete in parkrun. A woman behind him points two thumbs up to the camera.
Paul Webber joined parkrun about one year ago.()

Paul was a keen swimmer prior to the COVID-19 pandemic when lockdowns shut all pools. And without that activity, he had become "stupidly unfit".

"To walk around a supermarket, I was ready for a nana nap," he said.

"When I first moved up here to do 5km, which was into town and back again, [it] took over two hours.

"Even I can't believe it because I thought the knee would go or the ankle.

"They play up like everybody else's do, but other people have two of each, whereas I only have one to deal with."

Webber isn't one to shy away from a challenge and it's all because of the unique perspective he's gained from living the past 37 years with just one leg.

“I lost my leg because of stupidity on a motorcycle," he said.

"I actually died on March 15, 37 years ago. They officially had to jump-start me and put some oil in me.

"I died three times, so every day is just a bonus, every day is a giggle. Bumping into these people here, they're just as crazy as I am.

"I'm not going to sit here and die in a corner, which would've been quite easy to do. I'm going to get out there and do it. I'm still alive."

It was a long road to recovery after the accident, which included five months in hospital and a further six months in rehabilitation.

Having overcome every obstacle that has been thrown his way, Webber continues to push himself, and he hopes to one day get under 50 minutes at parkrun.

A man with one leg and crutches is walking along a footpath, he's wearing a dark t-shirt and shorts, cap and sunglasses
Paul enjoys the friendships he has made with fellow parkrun participants.()

Recently, he completed his milestone 50th parkrun and his personal-best time now stands under 51 minutes.

From struggling to walk 1km a year ago, to now setting a cracking pace, Webber is living proof that anything can be accomplished if you have the will and desire.

"I was trying to get under an hour for a while, and at the start I was getting 10 minutes quicker nearly every week," he said.

"When I did get under the hour for the first time, I got over the finish line and just about collapsed. I felt like I'd run a marathon."

He now walks about 20km a week, and it's not just leisurely walking either.

One day he decided to walk to the top of Mount Cannibal — a popular, local 2.3km loop walking trail. And with Holly by his side, he made it to the peak.

"Holly said she'd come because I'd need someone to dial triple-0," he said with a laugh.

His longest walk to date is 13km around Warragul. He admits his body "paid for it for a few days afterwards", but says any of the soreness or pain from exercise is outweighed by the long-term physical and mental benefits.

"The group here is great," Paul said.

"There's a group of us that go and have coffee afterwards and you bump into people at the supermarket and all over the place. It's been great for the fitness side and the community side of things.

"No-one cares how old you are, how young you are. Just go for it and give it a go.

"That was my whole idea from the start; meet some people and maybe do some volunteering. I gave it a go and I'm still here."


Source: ABC

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