In one of the most gut-wrenchingly inspiring videos ever to take ‘You Tube’ by storm, an 11-year-old boy is seen courageously staggering through a marathon 400m race. But whilst newspapers and on-line commentators have pointed to the uplifting message of support and compassion it delivers to the world, the 5 minute clip demonstrates something far greater.
Matthew Woodrum is a high school pupil at Colonial Hills Elementary School in Worthington, Ohio, USA. He has spastic cerebral palsy that greatly affects his muscle movement. People with this sort of condition would find it difficult to take part in many types of physical exercise. However, Matthew chose to run the toughest race of his school’s athletics day. Interestingly, the race was optional, not just for him, but for all the other able-bodied children too.
In a clip that has been viewed by over 800,000 people so far, Matthew makes his way around the track. Suddenly, as the boy staggers on, a few of the other children who have been watching their brave classmate gather round him for support. More children soon arrive on the lad, encouraging him with chants of “Let’s go Matt!” By the time the boy successfully completes the race, he is at the head of an army of fans who applaud him as he finishes.
It is a touching scene, that brings Matthew’s mother to tears and journalists have quite rightly highlighted it as such.
For me, however, this did not seize my interest half as much as the display of dogged determination shown by one little disabled boy. Never has the sheer, unstoppable, bloody-minded will power of physical disability been captured in a way which is so real and breathtakingly raw.
Feats like this thrill me. Matthew didn’t have to put himself through that race and yet he chose to do so despite the effort and the pain his body would obviously be forced to endure.
It’s difficult to put my feelings into words when I watch him will himself round that track, not once, but twice. All I can say is, when I watch this video, it stirs my soul. There’s a part in the race, about half way through, where it looks as if it is all a little too much for Matthew. His run fades to halting steps and it seems as if he’s about to stop altogether. This is where most people would call it a day – where the pain and the exhaustion would be too much. It is the point that Matthew himself reaches. It appears as if he’s had enough. Then something happens. His mind somehow finds another gear and despite the stress and strain on his body, despite the terrible fatigue, he starts up again. It’s simply awesome to watch.
Is this not the same strength of will, one might argue, required by any athlete who must push themselves through hell in order to achieve their goal? No. It isn’t. It’s something else, something far more devastatingly powerful.
Don’t misunderstand me, it’s beautiful to witness the spontaneous reaction of Matthew’s friends and their genuine joy as he crosses the line. The truth is, however, I’m not even sure if he even notices them at all. Yes, the cheering of his friends may have helped, perhaps even the words of his coach. In my opinion, though, his mind is already set before he even starts the race. That track could have been a bed of rusty nails and I believe Matthew would have still pulled himself round that field!
I challenge anyone to watch this video and not be moved by its exhilarating power. It gives us a glimpse of the sort of iron will possessed by Matthew and people like him whose courage knows no bounds.
If ever there was a shining example for disabled people the world over, Matthew is surely it and I respectfully thank him from the bottom of my heart for showing it to us.
To watch this incredible clip, please visit: