Multisports: Winson loses his legs but not his spirit

By Peter Thornton

Event founder Ian Winson with his son Ethan. This year his son Josh, 8, will be tackling the 5km course. Photo / Janna Dixon
Event founder Ian Winson with his son Ethan. This year his son Josh, 8, will be tackling the 5km course. Photo / Janna Dixon

Ian Winson is lucky to be alive. The 48-year-old was an engineer for Watercare when a horrific gas explosion in Onehunga in June 2011 took parts of both his legs and claimed the life of his colleague Philomen Gulland.

He is not taking his misfortune lying down. The organiser of the Legend Run over Auckland's Waitakere Ranges has turned his passion to expand the event in 2012 to include 5km and 10km junior versions of the Lydiard Legend race for school pupils.

The event, which was created in 2004, is open to young people for the first time this year and eight schools have signed up. Around 1000 athletes of all abilities are expected for the ninth staging of The Legend. Winson's son, Josh, will be among the kids taking on the notorious run.

"The event is emotional for me because of the journey we have been through," said Winson.

He is bursting with pride that his 8-year-old has taken up the challenge of the 5km run.

"It is great to see Josh taking part. He is definitely starting to feel the benefits of having a level of fitness. The kids are the future and running is the next thing to learn after walking. We need to keep kids running."

Winson is doing remarkably well. He admitted that life is so much harder these days as a double amputee but he is not one to make excuses.

"It is tough, make no mistake, but tougher on my family. We have to learn how to do things differently and it is difficult for us to be so different. Once I'm walking it will get easier but we always have planned for the worst situation - being confined to a wheelchair."

Winson is a former provincial hockey rep. He finished an Ironman in 2003 and was a social triathlete and marathon runner before the accident.

"It is extremely important for me to keep creating opportunities for people to stay fit through this race. That was my attitude before the accident. People need to look after their bodies and minds."

Just ask Winson's former work colleague Chris Harbour. The 56-year-old took part in the 10km event in 2011 and was inspired to step up to the half marathon because of his good mate.

"Ian's recovery from near death was a miracle," said the Wastewater transmission manager. "Within months of his accident he was both awarding medals at the 2011 Legend event and encouraging people to get out there and 'use their legs'.

"Like many others who know Ian, I can't help but be inspired by his determination to move on. His legs were amputated, but not his spirit. His giving 'lip' about my training is a sure sign that he's continuing to make great progress."

The run was established with the dream that it would become an event for all runners and this has been realised.

"I still believe that anyone can compete and complete The Legend adventure," said Winson. "You find out so much about yourself."

That is just the way Arthur Lydiard would have wanted it.

"He would be extremely proud of what the run has become and it's the perfect way to recognise him."

Winson met Lydiard three times with the second and third meetings specific about doing the race and the course. He quickly realised a race on the actual route was not possible but was extremely pleased with the route Winson showed him which has 75 per cent of the old course in it.

Before going on his last speaking tour to the US, Lydiard had mentioned to friend and colleague Garth Gilmour that he was very excited about The Legend and its place in New Zealand sport.

Harbour, who expects the 21km run to be tougher than any of his previous four half marathons, is looking forward to the finish line with Winson.

"The finish line will be very special to me," he said. "Not only because I will have enjoyed the company of other runners all following in the footsteps of the running greats but because, in Ian's words, I've got legs and I'm using them."

Winson is as passionate as he always has been about running. His attitude is remarkable.

He offers sage advice for people who are struggling with injury or adversity in their own lives.

"Take one day at a time, pick your battles, set achievable goals and push yourself to your limits."

That sounds like something Lydiard could easily have said. It could also a good advice for the run.

- NZ Herald

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