Sean Clarke was just 7-years-old when the back of his left knee was severed by glass. The accident left him with permanent foot drop and peroneal nerve palsy in his lower left leg. The full scope of his injuries included:
When Get Back UP Today learned that Sean was training for one of the most challenging and iconic events in South Africa, the Comrades Ultra Marathon, we had to know more about this remarkable young man. The following is what Sean recently shared with us, in his own words.
I am an extremely active and outgoing 27-year-old. My biggest passion in life is to run. I’ve used running not only to motivate myself, but to inspire those around me. I love pushing my body and mind to the limits and just recently completed the Cape Town Marathon 42.2km (26.2mi) road race. To this day my doctors still can’t believe that I achieved this. I now want to take it one step further and complete the Comrades Ultra Marathon 90km (55.9mi) road race in August of this year.
Ever since I was a little boy, my dream has been to participate in and complete the Comrades. Officially known
as “Comrades Marathon: The Ultimate Human Race”, this is a popular event run by over 20,000 athletes annually. The nearly 56-mile course starts in the city of Pietermartizurg and finishes in Durban on the east coast of
For me, the benefits of running go beyond the body. Running makes me feel alive, but most importantly it makes me feel ‘abled’, as if I don’t have a disability at all. It reminds me that the only disability in life is a bad attitude, and we are able to achieve great things if we set our minds to it. My mind is now set on completing the Comrades Marathon, regardless of my circumstances.
I have come to accept that I will never get rid of my pain completely. I also accept that running will never be a pain-free exercise either. However, since partnering with Allard International and using their ToeOFF® AFO (ankle-foot-orthosis), running has become a whole lot easier. I now have a ‘team’ that backs my abilities and believes that I can conquer great things.
Since 2002 I have gone through hundreds of different AFOs and splints from well-known brands to lesser-known brands. I can confidently say that what I have now is miles ahead of the rest when it comes to comfortability, durability and versatility. I use my AFO not only for running, but also for cycling, hiking and day-to-day tasks. For me, it really has no limitations! In fact, once I complete the Comrades I am hoping to test my AFO by competing in both the half and full Ironman triathlons next year.
If I can offer any advice to others living with mobility challenges it’s this: adapting to a life with a disability is never easy. However, the first step in the right direction is accepting your disability. Believe in the abilities that you have wholeheartedly and never let anyone dictate how you should live your life.
For anyone who wishes to follow me on social media, I invite you to visit my running page on Instagram @gammie_on_the_go. It is brand new and I intend on using my page to create reels, posts and stories where I showcase the benefits of AFOs and how they are making my life (as a disabled athlete) more comfortable and how they are assisting me in overcoming challenges that most believe to be impossible. I clearly don’t think my current goals are impossible, and for anyone who does I am out to prove you wrong!
Sean Clarke lives in Johannesburg, South Africa where he’s been working as a sales consultant for a tech company. When he’s not out on the trails cycling or running, Sean enjoys cooking, reading and spending time with his partner, Kaylin Van Dyk, and his dog, Ellis. He draws inspiration from many things but has been motivated recently by this quote: “Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start”.