Irene Valarezo Córdova (Ecuador) – Sport has given me my life back
In this blog, Irene reflects on her relationship with sports growing up in Ecuador and shares how being supported to try athletics has transformed her life.
Hi. My name is Irene Valarezo Córdova, I am 30 years old, and I currently live in Quito, Ecuador. I am an internationalist and political scientist, a woman with Cerebral Palsy and people with disabilities rights activist. In addition, I am the only woman with Cerebral Palsy who does adapted running in my country.
I came into this world in an unconventional body, one that breaks all the rules and goes outside the box of normality, that moves differently and is full of involuntary movements, a body that has provoked astonishment and averted glances or compassionate glances.
I have always been surrounded by stereotypes and paradigms about what it means to be a “normal” person in a “normal” body. Many of these ideas were the arguments that the doctors used to tell my parents that “the girl will only live 6 months; and if she survives, she won’t be able to eat, she won’t be able to walk, she won’t be able to run, she won’t be able to have a “normal” life.
I did physical rehabilitation from a very young age, I learned to walk when I was 5 years old, but during breaks at school or in Physical Education classes, I used to sit on the bench because, according to the teachers, “I couldn’t play like the others” and I was in danger of hurting myself. I think that 15 or 20 years ago, in Ecuador, it was unlikely to imagine possible adaptations to make physical activities, games and sports for all children.
For a long time, the only physical activity for me was summed up in my rehabilitation hours. However, as I grew older, I realized that rehabilitation didn’t fill my expectations, it didn’t make me happy, it didn’t complement me as a person; and indirectly I felt that I was still approving the old medical speech that had seemed incorrect to me.
This nonconformity situation was my impulse to ask my physiotherapist to teach me to do something else. And I told her, “I need to feel free; I want to run. Please teach me to run”. So, when I was 23 years old, I started running around the park. A few years later, I realized that it was still not enough, and I decided to move up a level and find a coach who would exploit my full potential. So, since I was 29 years old, I run at a more professional level.
With my coaches, we have adapted all the exercises so that I can do them in my own way. Also, a year ago, I learned about the sports discipline called Race Running or Frame Running, whose focus is that people with Cerebral Palsy can run. This adapted sport consists of running with a tricycle without pedals, which is called Race Runner or Frame Runner and supports the upper limbs so that the person maintains their balance and can move their legs faster.
Now, I am looking to venture into Frame Running and with it, inspire more girls and boys with Cerebral Palsy to run, even if obstacles arise, even if everyone says it is impossible. Yes, it is possible, with the necessary conditions and adaptations that they really need to run as their way.
If you ask me, sport has given me my life back. Honestly, I never imagined being that woman with cerebral palsy who dares to run in this country, because they always told me that I had to walk slowly so as not to fall, literally. But here I am, convinced that we must learn to walk and leave our fears and then run to reach our dreams and goals.
Please, don’t you forget it:
I want to run!
Irene Valarezo Cordova