FOR Andy Tomlinson PE at school wasn’t much fun. He is the first to admit he wasn’t the most mobile and that he was put off by able-bodied peers and what they could achieve.

However fast forward 20 years and Mr Tomlinson is now inspiring others after taking up running despite living with hemiplegic cerebral palsy, a lifelong condition with no cure, which affects the left-hand side of his body.

As World Cerebral Palsy Day is marked on Tuesday, the Glasgow runner is smashing his running targets and proving to be an inspiration.

“Being honest, I was a bit of a couch potato until I broke leg. I didn’t see myself as being able to run. During school I wasn’t the most mobile and during PE I was put off by the other more able-bodied kids. Even now as I’m recovering from injury, I find myself comparing myself with others,” Mr Tomlinson said.

“The difference, however, any ability I had in school was secondary to those that were more able-bodied, whereas now I’m challenged to push what I think my body is capable of. Why can't I go sub-45 minutes for 10k which I just missed out on by 30 seconds and probably caused me to over-push and get injured.”

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Keeping up fitness levels, particularly during lockdown, has not been easy for anyone but it hasn’t put Mr Tomlinson off and he now has a marathon in his sights.

He added: “I achieved a half-marathon of 1hr 44secs, so my next aim is a sub-four hour marathon even if I do shuffle-kick the ground and turn like a truck. I’ve signed up for the Great North Run and Berlin Marathon next year.

However, he will have a lot of preparation for it and there is every need to take care of himself.

“I burn through more energy than the average person which causes muscle hypertonia, so when I run 10k my body burns 11-12k energy resources,” he added. “Muscle tone affects my gait and posture. I can’t drive through my arms or lift my knees to gain perfect form, so I tend to use hip flexors more as opposed to calf and glutes.”

The 35-year-old spent most of the last decade hiking but was always looking for a new challenge and someone suggested a marathon.

Mr Tomlinson added: “I didn’t know any runners with CP doing long distance, so I tried a 10K see how I got on. In many ways, running is easier than walking. I seem to have more balance running.

“I was running for about eight months - if I subtract three months from jaw surgery - before I joined Bellahouston Road Runners. They are quite simply best running club. I really enjoyed track sessions and being part of a community has been amazing. Its kind of been a shame the pandemic has affected club training however bubble groups have re-started and new members can now join in.

“I would recommend joining as we are more than a running club. Over lockdown we’ve had virtual quizzes, circuit classes and yoga. Scottish Athletics had virtual races from one-mile efforts to 10k and hill reps to which we had most participants in Scotland. I think this is partly because of both the coaching and that we raced with each other. We may race apart but we race under the same sky.”

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He believes for someone with cerebral palsy, running does bring health benefits.

He said: “Running has had multiple health benefits. I’m happier when I run so it’s improved my mental health. My muscle tone is much better as well when I run, I’m not as tight and less pain, apart from sprained ankle at the moment, and hopefully opens up a whole world to me - Covid permitting.

“I have plans to run in Berlin both half- and full marathons, as well as Newcastle and Skye in 2021.”

For Mr Tomlinson it wasn’t too late to start running and he hopes it might inspire others to take it up.

He added: “The best advice I’d give is join a local club they are plenty of amazing clubs. Running has also allowed me to talk to runners all over the world as well including runners with Cerebral Palsy that will be running Berlin 2021 like me. Running is inclusive: every age, body shape, pace, distance, paired running, race running, and wheelchair events.”

Stephanie Fraser, chief executive, of Cerebral Palsy Scotland, said: "Andy is an inspiration because he does not let his CP limit his aspirations and he participates fully in so many different things. Too often CP is seen as only a childhood condition and people are told what they can’t do, not supported to achieve what they want to."

The charity feels in Scotland there is not enough specialist support and services for people with the condition and their families which means they face barriers in education, employment and social activities. Expectations can be inconsistent with capability.

Ms Fraser added: "World Cerebral Palsy Day is an important international initiative that enables us to highlight the potential of the CP community and shine a welcome light on the issues faced by people with CP. Role models like Andy encourage everyone to look beyond the CP and to encourage people to live their lives how they want to, on their own terms."