By Richard Hook
Running a marathon is an impressive feat. For most, to do it in under 3 hours 15 minutes is incredible. But for Abdi Dhuhulow this is the easy part.
For the past 20 years, Abdi has only had one leg to run with. The 30-year-old former refugee lost the other to a gunshot wound during the Civil War back in his homeland of Somalia.
Abdi said: “I was trying to flee the city back during the war in 1991. There were lots of guns going off and I got hit in the ankle and fell off the lorry on which I was travelling. The lorry ran over me, crushing every bone in my foot.”
The healthcare situation in Somalia was so poor that Abdi wasn’t offered surgery.
“For 13 years after my injury I was struggling to walk, I really needed an operation to fix my broken bones,” he added.
When Abdi arrived in the UK in 2004, he finally received the treatment he needed. But it was too late, and he had to have his leg amputated.
While many would have been in despair at this point, Abdi looked at the surgery as a positive thing. He said: “Before my amputation I could not even walk properly, let alone run.”
“Athletics has enabled me to overcome the difficulties I have faced.”
Initially, Abdi took up running as part of his rehab at Charing Cross Hospital but he began to show a real talent that surprised even himself.
He added: “Before the accident I didn’t do any proper running, I was more into football – but I guess it was in my DNA!”
After joining the Serpentine Running Club and winning the 5km run at the British Open Athletics Championships – for people with disabilities – Abdi had hoped to run for Great Britain at the Beijing Paralympics.
“When I applied to run, I was told the furthest distance amputees can do is the 400m,” he said.
Just to prove that he could, Abdi ran the 2008 London Marathon with a prosthetic leg, and finished in 3:14:40.
Abdi took that up another level when he ran this year’s Brighton Half Marathon in an incredible 1:23:19, beating over 6,000 able-bodied runners.
He now uses a specialist running leg, like four-time Paralympic champion Oscar Pistorius, but this is a major issue for Abdi: “The running leg costs £12,000.
“I was lucky to receive one from sponsorship, but there are many others in Britain, and in Africa, who are denied the opportunity to run.”
In the future, Abdi hopes to help more amputees find a path into competitive running, as well as campaigning to have distance events added to the 2012 Paralympics. With all he has already overcome, would you bet against him achieving his dream?