Paralysis No Obstacle in an Obstacle Race

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This article was originally published on the Obstacle Method in April 2016.


Being bound in a wheel chair did not stop David Trotter from conquering the Wairua Warrior race in Nelson on April 9th.

Greg Witika kneels with David Trotter

Last year David sat on the side lines, this year he completed the 6km Wairua Warrior obstacle race. Greg Witika kneels with David Trotter.

Last year he sat on the side lines, this year he completed the 6km Wairua Warrior obstacle race through military-style obstacles and muddy off-road terrain.

After a motorbike crash at age 17, David has paralysis of two limbs and damage to his language and speech abilities. He requires constant management. Since David’s accident, his whole life has been about overcoming obstacles.

Team David pull David through a river, showered by the rain of a firefighting hose

Team David, a team of four, stepped up to support David in being able to enter the Wairua Warrior. And so the training began. “Friends and colleagues here just seem to want to help David be more mobile and articulate and he has responded”, said Barbara Trotter (David’s Mother). She and others setup a page on website Give A Little to raise money for the equipment needed for the race: an all-terrain, manual wheelchair (a Trekenetic K-2). David was also announced as the 2016 Wairua Warrior Ambassador for the race, leading to media attention and admiration as he showed that those in the community with physical and intellectual disabilities can still get out there and be involved in an obstacle race. Supporters were stunned when a $2,000 anonymous donation appeared in the account, and all-together the Give A Little campaign surpassed its goal, raising more than $6,000.

As David crossed the finish line, not in his wheel chair but assisted by Team David to walk, the crowd cheered and local photographers flittered around capturing the moment. As he sat down and took off his safety helmet, people congratulated him as he smiled in a somewhat bewildered manner. It took 3 hours and 40 seconds of pushing under, over, and through one of New Zealand’s most challenging obstacle courses, but he had achieved his desire which was set a year ago while watching others cross the finish line with similar smiles – yet maybe not as big, or as hard earnt.

David Trotter

David’s parents and ‘Team David’ surround him at the finish line

It’s easy to assign a narrative to David’s accomplishment, especially while reporting on it. He tackled a challenging race and overcame the obstacles in his way. Even outside of the race, trivial day to day duties that we take for granted like getting out of bed or tying our shoelace are frustrating and time consuming tasks for someone in his position. Hence someone in David’s condition conquering a grueling obstacle race is an inspirational example for all of us in determination and vigour, or so the narrative could go. However, when I asked David why he did the race he replied first and foremost “For fun.” When prompted by his team that the race must’ve been very challenging and did he also do it for the challenge he responded with a shake of his head and a “No, for fun.”

If anything can be learnt from David, it’s that obstacles are only in how you view them, and that fun can indeed be had while tackling them. The paralysis and the disabilities and the wheel chair didn’t stop him from having fun.

The all-terrain wheelchair is on permanent loan to the Wairua Warriors Obstacle Racing Club for public use by appointment in future races or events.

The Wairua Warrior obstacle race is held in Happy Valley Adventure Park, Nelson with 6km, 12km or 12km elite options.

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