Carole Sparke

Carole SparkWas the first thing you saw the stick?


I hope not! Because my eye would have gone to the over-weight, out of breath woman who was at least having a go!


Having a go is what it is about. Even if you aren’t 100% fit and it isn’t the standard that you would have wanted to participate at, it’s still good to be out there with your club members and friends, debating the pros and cons of route choices. But the body is a fragile casing and it sometimes lets us down. At that stage it’s a case of looking at options to help maintain as much fitness as possible. That’s where the Munrow Sports Centre and their staff have played a key role for me over the past eight years.


After almost 15 years at the University, when I’d only ever gone into the Munrow Centre to change into running kit and disappear out of the door for an hour or more, suddenly I was faced with the prospect of leotard and pumps in a stuffy sports hall as a prolapsed disc cut short all my outdoor fun. Thankfully, staff pointed me towards classes where the tutors use of music to accompany their classes still enabled participants to hear the instructions (thanks Claire), was at a pace I could manage and, crucially, where not a single leotard was in sight! Encouragement to go at my own pace and not to try to keep up with others was key (thanks Hema) and after a while I was able to get back to orienteering albeit with damaged or absent nerve function in parts of the left leg as a handicap and reduced to having to use a crutch.

That was a relatively short lived reprieve sadly as severe arthritis has now ruined the right knee. Again the Munrow Sports Centre has played a key role in helping me recover from a knee operation and now to maintain my residual fitness. Lee Costin, the Health and Fitness Manager in the Munrow Centre, has reviewed my needs in the gym (a free service), is looking into the provision of wall bars to enable me to exercise safely, arranged for more equipment to be spread around the gym to save it having to be dragged from one room to another and arranged a (free) one to one session with one of the fitness supervisors (Wayne Johnson) to work out the safest and best exercises for me using the gym equipment.

It’s not just in the gym where the University’s facilities and their staff have helped with my disabilities. The swimming pool and its poolside hoist is made available on a Sunday to the Alta Sports Club for the disabled, of which I am a member. That weekly hour and a half session is very highly valued by the sociable group that it serves; both as an exercise session and for the social contact it permits people who can be quite isolated as a result of their disabilities. This group’s existence is advertised on the University web pages but I wonder how many staff and students know about this excellent resource (only £6 membership per year and a friendly supportive group of adults and juniors)? It has already been indicated at one of the open feedback sessions about the new sports centre, that in the new sports centre timetable, the Alta Sports Club will be provided for and that we won't lose our slot. That’s another clear commitment from the University to those of us who benefit from adjustments and accommodation.

So whilst I doubt you’ll see me out orienteering on foot again, I do at least feel that I’ve got access to support and facilities to help stave off the wheelchair. But hey – there’s always wheelchair basketball or Trail Orienteering if it gets to that.

Carole Sparke, IT Services


Professional Services