Matt King OBE has been refused entry into the London Marathon because, according to the London Marathon Chief Exec Nick Bitel, pushing yourself to exhaustion in a marathon isn’t athletic endeavour if you are Matt. He has also expressed concerns about the image of the race if Matt were allowed to enter. Other reasons put forward to deny Matt’s participation seem to contradict what actually happens in the London Marathon every year. Wheelchairs have been pushed around the course on more than one occasion and people with spinal injuries and powered devices have also been allowed entry.
Matt has already raised thousands for rugby league related charities by twice taking part in the Great North Run and completing New York Marathon. Such is the magnitude of all his personal efforts and work in support of other people, he was awarded his OBE in this year’s Queens Birthday Honours List for his services to disability and charity.
In 2004 Matt, who was 17 at the time, was playing his first game for London Broncos academy at Halifax when he was involved in a tackle which resulted in him breaking his neck. He was left paralysed from the neck down and dependent upon a ventilator to breathe.
Despite the obvious difficulties Matt has he has achieved ‘A’ grades in all of his ‘A’ levels and a first class honours degree in Law. He is a determined young man and an inspiration to many with lesser problems
When Matt sustained his injury his sporting ambitions thankfully did not end. Rugby league match official Sally Walters-Thomas was part of Matt’s 2007 Great North Run team which raised £10,000 for the late Mike Gregory. His wife Erica donated the money in his memory to Wigan and Leigh charity Embrace and the Motor Neurone Disease Association.
When asked about the decision to not allow Matt to enter Sally said, “I am appalled at this decision especially after what we have seen in the London Paralympics. I have experienced running with Matt first hand and the suggestion that it isn’t safe for him is just ridiculous. As a team we protected Matt and ensured he negotiated the course as safely as every other participant. He isn’t a risk to himself or anyone else and it’s discriminatory and offensive to say he is. These sorts of team efforts enable Matt to fulfil his potential and dreams and raise lots of money for very worthy causes whilst doing so. His determination to overcome his own difficulties and at the same time give to others is truly an inspiration”.
Chris Brasher ran the New York Marathon in 1978. It gave him the inspiration to create the London Marathon. At the time he wrote;
“To believe this story you must believe that the human race can be one joyous family, working together, laughing together, achieving the impossible. Last Sunday, 11,532 men and women from 40 countries in the world, assisted by over a million people, laughed, cheered and suffered during the greatest folk festival the world has seen.”
How ironic is it that at a time when London and Great Britain is still basking in the glory of an immense Olympic and Paralympics Games, the organisers of the London Marathon have, since 2007, repeatedly turned away this extraordinary and inspirational young man even though he has taken part in and finished the very race that inspired their own.
If Matt wins his six year long fight and gets a place in 2013, he is hoping to raise money for, amongst others, the Yorkshire Air Ambulance, the ITU at Leeds General Infirmary both of which gave him life saving expert medical care at the time of his accident and in the immediate aftermath of it and the Rugby League Benevolent Fund.