By Alesha Capone
Werribee’s Ian Gainey says he hopes to become the first person to ever complete 30 Melbourne Marathons so that he can provide inspiration to other wheelchair athletes and people with a disability.
Mr Gainey, who represented Australia at the 1984 and 1988 Paralympic Games, has already participated in an impressive 29 Melbourne Marathons.
He completed his first Melbourne Marathon in a personally-built road-racing wheelchair during 1979.
Now aged 69, Mr Gainey said he had hoped last year would be his 30th time completing the marathon, but that COVID caused the event’s cancellation.
He is optimistic that this year’s marathon, scheduled for November 10, will go ahead and has been training every two to three days in the lead-up.
Mr Gainey said he also hopes his family will be able to see him come through the gates of the MCG at the marathon’s end.
“That will open the flood banks for tears – I’ll be a mess emotionally,” he said.
Mr Gainey contracted polio when he was just 18-months-old, before the vaccine for the illness was developed in the 1950s.
He spent two years in hospital, along with many other children, including some who were in iron lungs.
As a result of polio’s impact on his lower limbs, since the age of two, Mr Gainey has used forearm crutches and callipers strapped to his legs to walk short distances.
He started playing wheelchair basketball during the 1970s and later took up swimming and the marathon, winning medals at national and international events.
At the World Stoke Mandeville Wheelchair Games in 1986, he set a world record in the 10,000 men’s marathon of 32 minutes and 23.70 seconds.
“You can do anything if you prepare for it and prepare mentally,” Mr Gainey said.
“Don’t believe people if they say you can’t do anything.”
He said after completing his first Melbourne Marathon, his aim was to join the Melbourne Marathon Spartans Club, which is for people who have completed 10 of the marathons.
After achieving this, Mr Gainey pushed on to achieved 20 marathons – the only person to have ever done so – “and thought of retiring”.
But in 2016, after surviving five months of intensive chemotherapy treatment for bowel cancer, Mr Gainey was still asking doctors when he could compete in his next marathon.
Mr Gainey said he intends to retire after his thirtieth Melbourne Marathon.
“I enjoy the time out there over the 42 kilometres, talking to other runners and I encourage them, while they encourage me,” he said.