Friday, 23 February 2024 - 3:14pm

Moving forward with disabled communities

2 min read

News article photos (1 items)

Members of the Achilles contingent at Round the Bays.

Two members of Police staff acted as guides for disabled people to complete the 21km half-marathon course of Wellington’s Round the Bays.

Sharon Johnston, Lead Community Inclusion, and Constable Hannah Drake, of Porirua Youth Aid, volunteered through Achilles International, which gives disabled people the opportunity to participate in local, national and international events alongside able-bodied athletes.  

Sharon says she never thought she would be able to do anything like the half-marathon, but with a little encouragement and a training regime she knocked it off.

“It was my first time walking a half marathon and being a guide for Achilles,” she says.

“I had so much fun challenging myself and encouraging excited disabled athletes on the day. I can’t wait for the next one and the future challenge of walking a full marathon as a guide for a disabled person.”

Hannah has been a guide for Achilles Wellington since 2020, after a chance meeting with an Achilles athlete and his guides on the Wellington Around the Bays Half Marathon Course. The 2024 event - held last Sunday (18 February) - was her third as a guide.

“There are so many positive things about being an Achilles guide,” says Hannah.

“I’ve met so many inspirational people - both athletes and guides - who have allowed me to see life from different perspectives.

“I know running as a guide closes a logistical gap for an athlete but the personal benefit I get from being a guide far outweighs what an athlete could ever get from me guiding them.”   

Hannah in 2021, in her first time as an Achilles guide; and Sharon and Antz (and Ravon the dog) crossing the finish line.
Hannah in 2021, in her first time as an Achilles guide; and Sharon and Antz (and Ravon the dog) crossing the finish line.

Peter Loft, Co-Founder and Life Member of Achilles International New Zealand, says Achilles began in 1993 with a focus on supporting disabled athletes in the New York City Marathon. After around 20 years the focus shifted away from New York and the Marathon, towards smaller events.

“We started to grow Achilles throughout New Zealand,” he says. “We also stopped using words like ‘running 5 or 42kms’ as ‘running’ can scare people.

“Our new focus became ‘Moving Forward for Life’ - we don’t care how you move as long as its forward.

“The lifeblood of Achilles is our volunteers and running or walking guides that support our athletes – without them we wouldn’t have Achilles.

“These people give up their time to support our athletes like Te Huia - aka Rocketman - who is autistic and epileptic and is going to push his guides to the limit.”

If you would like to be part of Achilles or learn more about the organisation go to or their Facebook page