Patrick Barden, 24, was born with cerebral palsy, but that never stopped him from pursuing his dreams, whether in education or sport. So not registered as an official participant did not deter Patrick from taking on the London Marathon, crossing the finish line in 5 days with no aid other than his walking frame. An incredibly inspiring story of the human spirit, putting a lot of our daily obstacles into perspective.
What inspired you to study sports?
Love sports, mainly football. I wanted a more in depth knowledge of how to prepare the body and mind for competition. It is the industry where I feel most comfortable which gives me confidence inside and outside of sport. It gives me confidence that I can achieve things despite my disability, e.g. my degree, my football coaching badges and now the marathon. Which then transfers outside of sport, where I hope it shows people that I am capable doing things and I’m not just one to sit in a wheelchair and feel sorry for myself.
Sportsmen like Wayne Rooney, Rory McIlroy, Sir Bobby Charlton, David Weir and Anthony Joshua have shown that with hard work and dedication, you can ‘get to the top’ and that pushes me to work harder and achieve things nobody thought was possible.
Could you share one sportsman or a specific story in particularly that created an emotional impact?
I went to an Ipswich vs Manchester United game when I was about 10 years old and after the game, Sir Bobby Charlton took the time to come over and write a message of support. Coming from someone that has achieved so much and that is an icon for England and Manchester United it inspired me to aim for things that nobody thought was possible. Then as I got older, Wayne Rooney, Roro McIlroy and Andy Murray were my role models in sport. They show people that if you work hard, you can reach the pinnacle of your sport.
Was there a time when you used to see your condition as a limitation to pursuing dreams?
I’ve always been taught to go for everything and try anything.
Who taught you that?
My whole family really from a young age, they are all driven themselves so it was just something natural that happened.
Are there bad days and how do you get through them?
There have been bad days where the condition gets the better of you both physically and emotionally. But everybody goes through bad days. No specific examples, but I just get bogged down with thoughts about what my life could’ve been like. Thoughts about relationships and careers etc. but those things are out of my control. However, on the whole, I have had the belief in myself that I can achieve anything that I set my mind to.
What motivated you to do the London Marathon unofficially?
It was always going to be unofficial because of the time it was going to take. I wasn’t motivated by a medal, but to overcome a challenge that would test my limits and achieve something nobody thought I could!
Do you remember discussing it with people and them being unsure that you could do it?
A few people were skeptical but I think the people that know me, know that I’m very determined and once I set my mind on something, I will try my hardest to do it no matter how many doubters.
What was going through your head while doing it, what kept you going?
I’m a very determined person so nothing was going to stop me completing it, no matter how long it would take me. There was one particular day where it was really difficult to put one foot in front of the other but I managed to keep walking for a significant amount of time and come back, the next day, stronger. I just kept thinking that when I cross the finish line, what an achievement it will and all the hard work, that I put into training, would have paid off. That’s what kept me going.
What advice would you give to people with physical disabilities who may have given up or still thinking whether or not to pursue a dream?
Don’t doubt yourself for a minute! Pick a challenge and find a way to get there. Step by step, you can achieve anything!
Are you planning on doing any more challenges?
Yes, something different to a marathon. But I don’t know what that will be yet. I’ve thought about a cycle ride from my home in Kent to Old Trafford in Manchester. I’m a big fan of Manchester United so that could be quite cool but that is just a crazy idea that I’ve had! I’d like to keep raising funds for ‘Step and Learn’ and raise awareness of CP and show that people can achieve anything, no matter what their ability.
Please tell us a bit more about Step and Learn
Step and Learn offer Conductive Education to children with Cerebral Palsy and other motor disorders. Conductive Education is designed to teach the children to control the physical movements. The focus is on a child’s potential rather than what they ‘cannot do’ and through play and laughter, the aim is to enable them child to become as independent as possible!
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I think everybody would like to find somebody to share their life with, if that is meant to be, then great! I am going to continue training with a personal trainer to build up my general strength which will help me stay independent and mobile. I’d also like to continue with my football coaching badges and have a career in a sport that I love.
Any final words?
Don’t dismiss somebody with a disability! They have something to offer.
You can follow Patrick on Twitter @PaddyB08