Student Claire hopes charity challenge will ‘help change the world for disabled skiers and snowboarders’

NTU student Claire Ryan is pushing 200km to raise money and awareness for Snow Buddies UK, a charity that supports skiers and snowboarders with disabilities.

Camera icon
Credit: Luke Brennan

NTU student Claire Ryan is pushing 200km to raise money and awareness for Snow Buddies UK, a charity that supports skiers and snowboarders with disabilities.


Claire will use her everyday manual wheelchair to complete the challenge across the month of August, giving back to the charity that supported her to find independence and confidence again through sport.


You can support Claire by making a donation here. Keep up to date on her progress here. 


A hereditary disease left Claire adjusting to the life-altering challenge of becoming a fulltime wheelchair user 10 years ago, and the reality of losing her sporting passion left the skier feeling deflated and beaten.


After many difficult years, Claire began to accept her disabilities and looked to take part in adaptive sports; she discovered sit-ski through Snow Buddies UK.


Along with providing opportunity for disabled people to develop and thrive in snow sports, the organisation played a huge part to help Claire with her rehabilitation and acceptance of becoming a disabled athlete.

Now the Fine Art student wants to give back and celebrate just how far she has come through a tough physical challenge, picking a distance that ordinarily would never be considered to complete in a manual wheelchair.


She said: “I wanted to help give disabled skiers and snowboarders the same opportunities I had during some very difficult years.


“When I deteriorated, I could barely push my manual wheelchair independently. My life revolved around skiing, everything I did connected to the sport for over 13 years. After losing my independence, sport and the passion for life, I became very depressed, isolated, unfit and angry with the world.


“Snow Buddies UK supported me through my darkest days, and helped to pick up the pieces and give back my drive, passion, and love for life. Without this charity I definitely would not be where I am today!"


Claire, who is local to Nottingham, is also an active member of NTU’s Wheelchair Basketball club, takes part in running marathons in her wheelchair and volunteers regularly both for the university and Snow Buddies UK.

“Being a disabled athlete doesn't come easy," continues Claire. "There are many barriers and obstacles to overcome in every environment.


“For example, when taking part in running events, I have to trust the advice of able-bodied participants who may not have had the experiences of someone in a wheelchair.


“Questions I ask regularly: are there any steps on the route? Are there disabled toilets available? Are there any barriers or gates and are they wide enough for a wheelchair to pass through?


“Physical boundaries at sporting events are one thing, but dealing with my disability in everyday life is another. My joints dislocate and dislodge and this can happen at any time, anywhere.


“Everyday-tasks like lifting a cup of tea can cause this, and if a joint has dislocated I have to relocate it in the environment that I’m in. This is extremely painful, even when the joint is back in the right place.


“But, through sport I learned to carry on and finish the task; I never give up.“

Camera icon
Credit: DGTL

To achieve the huge distance of 200km, Claire is pushing multiple sessions and joining running groups in Nottingham. She also goes out to push every day, joined by her two border collies, who love being her running-buddies.


But the journey to pushing any distance at all hasn’t been an easy one. Claire has trained her upper body for almost 12 months to condition strength and stamina to this level.

She continues: “I started off with small achievable goals: I took my dogs out for a walk or went out for the day with no electric aids to manoeuvre my chair. I set myself goals each week to improve my strength and stamina.


“It wasn’t all physical strength I had to build, I felt very different in an able bodied world with people out walking, running and cycling around me. It’s a very surreal experience and hard to explain, but it takes a huge amount of self-belief.


“Still, managing pain when I first started properly training for runs/pushes under four years ago was horrendous. Every time I trained or took part in an event I would ask myself: why am I doing this? Everything hurts. Why did I do it?


“But after a lot of hard work, this year I have found that my body has actually become very addicted to the exercise I do. I can no longer sit still or have a day off. I have to be outside pushing!

“I have even figured out how to harden the skin on my hands to reduce the risk of blisters. I soak my hands in surgical sprites twice a day, it works very well - no blister has formed during my challenge yet.

“But one major barrier I still have to overcome, not just in this challenge but in life too, is how much I actually listen to my body – can I push through the pain, or do I need to take time out?


“There are still days that my disability takes a turn for the worst and plans are cancelled, life is put on pause as I cannot move without being in extreme pain. These are the days where I have no choice but to stay in bed, giving my body time to rest and recover.


“I’m determined to complete this challenge. I have selected a distance that would normally be impossible for a wheelchair user, especially those who use an everyday manual chair and not a road-racing chair, specifically designed for marathons.


“The money raised will do so much good. Everything from equipment to transport can cost up to three times as much for disabled skiers and snowboarders and the donations raised will create a level playing field.

"I hope to help change the world for disabled skiers and snowboards and make this amazing sport available to all.”

Here at NTU we are so proud to be represented by incredible students like Claire, and we can’t wait to celebrate her progress with her.


You can support Claire by making a donation here. Keep up to date on her progress here.


You can even help Claire by joining her on a push / run. Fill out the contact form at the bottom of this page. 


Claire concludes: “I believe there is a sport out there for everyone. No matter how old you are or your disability or ability, there is something out there!


“Plus disability sports aren't just for those with disabilities, just like Wheelchair Basketball, anyone can have ago.”

Student Claire hopes charity challenge will ‘help change the world for disabled skiers and snowboarders’

Published on 9 August 2019
  • Category: Sport

Still need help?

+44 (0)115 941 8418