Chris wheels out a virtual Rip to River time

January 14, 2021 BY

Chris Midgely pushes hard along the bank of the Barwon River during his lap for the virtual Rip to River. Photos: JAMES TAYLOR

FOR the first time in its more than 41-year history, Ocean Grove Surf Life Saving Club’s main fundraising event, the Rip to River, was run virtually.

The race – which opened its event window on December 26 and closed it on Friday last week (January 8) – also had new categories this year for people who use wheelchairs, “overaged Nippers” and those wanting more of a challenge.

As well as the usual 1.4km “Ripper Nipper” 5km Run, 10km Classic Run and 10km options, participants could instead choose:

The 1.4km Overaged Nipper for people over the age of 13

The 5km and 10km Wheelchair, added for the first time due to the move to a virtual environment, and

The 20km Rip’nBack for those who love a longer race.

Participants could race as many times as they liked between December 26 and January 8 to try to improve their times.

Chris Midgely, a ward clerk at University Hospital Geelong, signed up for the 5km Wheelchair Race and recorded his time on Wednesday last week on the same course as the Barwon River Run, which he took part in before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

He said he was happy with his recorded time of 38 minutes, although he believed he could have set a faster one if he was on a flat, closed track.

“There’s a bit of camber on the path because of the tree roots, the chair wants to follow it. But it’s nice down here by the river.”

Chris Midgely heard about the virtual Rip to River event through Geelong Adaptive Sports, where he plays wheelchair tennis.

Mr Midgely began using a wheelchair following a motorcycle accident in 2005 when he was 21.

He said he participated in the Rip to River to challenge himself, as well as for the excuse to be “outside, active and an inspiration to others”.

“You’ve got to have a go,” he said. “It feels good.”

He heard about the Rip to River event through Geelong Adaptive Sports, where he plays wheelchair tennis.

Mr Midegly said wheelchair “running” was hard on the hands and arms, but while the uphill sections were challenging, the downhill parts offered the ability to coast.

“The legs have bigger muscles than the arms, so it’s a bit harder in a wheelchair,” he said.

“People are so helpful and kind on the events, though, and they offer to push you uphill. I always say no, thinking that would technically be cheating.”

Ocean Grove SLSC vice president of operations Bruce Honey said the changes in 2021 meant those who would usually work behind the scenes to help set up the event had no excuse but to get involved and run the race.

“Thanks to the virtual format, this means club members and their friends and family based interstate and overseas can join in for the first time and race those back home in Ocean Grove.”

The Rip to River cost $10 to enter and is normally Ocean Grove SLSC’s biggest annual fundraiser, but the club was not expecting a large return this year.
Instead, the club encouraged people to focus on the enjoyment and participation as a great way to begin 2021 and put the difficulties of the previous year behind them.

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