Episode 123

Claire Danson - Living life and loving yourself

If you listen to one podcast this week, make it this one, as Claire Danson returns to the show. This conversation will make you stop and think and be grateful for what you have and what you can do. If you haven't heard the first interview with Claire from April 2020, go and have a listen. it will give you a good background as to how her life changed in August 2019, following a cycling accident. Since her accident, Claire has been open and honest about how she lives with a spinal cord injury, about the good days and the bad ones and about how sport has played such a crucial role to help her to be Claire...Claire the daughter, Claire the sister, Claire the tutor, Claire the friend, Claire the triathlete. Claire, the amazing woman that she is.

You'll hear:

04:30 Claire explains how her life has changed since we speak two "I'm doing more structured training and day to day life stuff has just improved. I'm used to the routine. I just go about life normally again. It's great and I get to do a few extra things now which are great, live motivational speaking which I love. They show people what's possible and I always say to people you shouldn't put limits on yourself, but other people shouldn't put limits on you either. I don't think we should ever be less ambitious. Hard things happen, but you get through them it's ok.

8:48 Claire outline about her goals for 2022. I'm going to do the para-tri series and I'll do the British Cycling para series too, but the big thing I'm doing is riding from London to Paris for Back Up spinal cord charity. I think it's 9-10 hours of riding time a day.

11:08 Claire talks about joining in with a lot of the club sessions with Precision Race Team. "I just go along and I am just like everyone else. They have adapted really well and they've been great. I am just another person."

13:38 About doing her first triathlon since her accident and the 225 triathlon in the summer of 2021. I did the 5km swim, and I did make the cut off! I did 120km on the bike until my shoulder was sore and then I did 40km in the race chair, which is more than I was expecting to do. It was one of the best days I've ever had. My brother, my sister, my arm surgeon and my physios all came and did a lap with me.

17:38 There were definitely days when I thought 'is this possible?" And often you question, but you just crack on anyway. Sometimes you just don't even know. There are certain things I wouldn't have tried before my accident. If I try something and I don't like it, I don't have to do it! I'm an adult.

19:38 Her trip sit-skiing in the winter of 2022, put on by Back Up Trust. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and I wanted to learn what it's like to travel and see how I managed. The first two days I was like 'oh what have I done?" Come day 3, everything changed and I was like 'I love this, I never want to leave!" I had kept falling on the mono-ski and then we changed to a bi-ski, which meant they could tether me. That helped and I didn't fall so much and it was just a magical experience. I now don't want to say no to anything and I will take every opportunity that comes my way. It's just really cool to be able to give something back and get other people - able people and people in chairs - to get back into sport and make the Precision Race Team accessible to everyone.

27:38 How sport has helped "I don't know how you get through something like this, unless you have something that drives you and that's what sport does for me. It gives me long term goals, it gives me goals daily and it gives me a group of people that don't make me feel on my own and it also helps me to not feel different. Nobody expects any less of me. I sometimes feel more disabled when I'm not in a sporting situation. It gives me that time when I don't feel like I have a disability. If you find your thing and you enjoy it, do it.

30:03 2024 Paralympics 'it's a definite goal. If I can be good enough, yes it is a definite goal. But if it doesn't, there are so many other routes I can go down.

30:38 How her relationship with her body has changed. "I am pleased with how I can do things and what my body enables me to do. I am strong enough that I can be independent. I am proud of my upper body and my strength and my shoulder. I will always struggle a bit with the fact I have a tummy, because I don't have any muscles to hold it in. You have to be kind to yourself and the fact I can ride a hand bike is something I am so lucky to be able to do. There are times when I am so happy. Sometimes when I am driving I might think about what happened and I think 'oh that sucks. But then I am in my state of mind when I do think 'wow, life is amazing'"

34:38 Why is Claire so open and honest in her posts. ' A lot of the feelings are translatable and it doesn't have to be because of being in a wheelchair. I find it quite cathartic. It is helpful in a selfish way to myself and there is nothing wrong with being honest. In reality nobody is strong and happy all of the time. And if people see that I'm having a rubbish time, but I carry on, then that might help. I'm one of the most honest people, I can't lie.

38:38 The want to always do better. 'I think I had done a tough turbo session and I was really pleased but I thought I want to do more. So many of us do that in life. You might have just run a marathon, but you think 'why didn't I do it in three hours not three and a half." And for some reason you look around and see everyone else's achievements, but you can't see your own and they are probably looking at us thinking exactly the same. In the moment, yes I am good at celebrating my goals.

43:38 Claire talk about her rehab work, which she does for 2 hours a week, which includes work in an Exoskeleton, using a walking frame, four and two point kneeling, so any core I do have gets me stronger. "I love watching videos back of me walking in the frame, because it makes me sit and think 'I never thought I would be walking again. It makes me think I CAN do that. But it also confirms in my head that I can't walk."

49:38 Her Ambassador role with Wings for Life. Their sole aim is to find a cure and 100% of the money goes into research as it's fully funded by Red Bull. I felt so honoured when they asked me to be an ambassador.

51:08 Her biggest lesson learnt over the past few years. I have learnt that I am an alright person. I am starting to feel ok with me and people like me because I am me. Even admitting it is a bit uncomfortable and I feel like I have something to give and it's funny that that has come through potentially becoming less able. I think I am kinder to myself and I am now in this mega fortunate position to be able to help other people.

Find out more about this week's guest

Claire Danson Instagram

Claire Danson Just Giving charity webpage for No Limits London to Paris ride

Back Up Trust

Wings for Life

Join Helen at The Roc Triathlon

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About the Podcast

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Inside Tri Show
Helen Murray brings you awesome interviews from triathlon and beyond

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Helen Murray

Helen has been working in triathlon for a decade as an athlete, coach and broadcaster.

Helen hosts the Inside Tri Show podcast bringing you awesome interviews from triathlon and beyond