Rafi Solaiman

Hello, I’m Rafi……

A bit about me

I’m now 21 years old. When I was 12 years old out of the blue I suffered a massive stroke (bleed on my brain), and for six months I was unable to move or communicate, because my brain had been damaged. My family were told that there was a high chance that I wouldn’t survive, so I feel very lucky that I’m here to tell you about it. I was away from home for about 10 months in total, having 6 months in hospital and 4 at a Rehabilitation centre.

I returned to school after about a year and was using a wheelchair permanently at that point. The stroke was in the back of my brain, and it has left me with very poor balance and coordination. My short-term memory has also been affected; I can be like Dory sometimes (My Mum has had to help me write this as I wouldn’t remember it all) Gradually with help from the physios I got stronger and was able to walk with a rear walking frame which I still need today.

Me and Sport

Before my stroke, I was very active, in fact I found it very hard to sit still! The sports I enjoyed were football and running.

When I returned to school after my stroke I was not included in PE, I would use that time to do exercises with my teaching assistant. I really missed being involved in sport.

Me and my Mum set about trying to find a sport that I could get involved in, but it wasn’t that easy.

I tried wheelchair basketball, but it was so difficult with my lack of coordination, and I got hit in the face with the ball a few times! I also tried powerchair football, but this didn’t push me physically. I tried para ice hockey… I found it a bit scary! Then my Mum found racerunning (now called Frame Running) on the internet; it seemed like a sport that was made for me, I would be supported by a three wheeled frame (like a trike with no pedals), so I wouldn’t fall over, but I would be able to run! It was some time before we could find a way of trying it.

My Frame Running journey so far

I was able to try Frame Running at a CP Sport taster day. Once I got the padded pants sorted I loved it, and eventually was loaned a running frame (running frames are very expensive). There were no clubs locally that were doing Frame Running so I had to join a friend who was training one to one at Sheffield with a coach. Eventually we were joined by several other frame runners.

The group was taken over by a wonderful coach Andy who sadly died suddenly, and we were without a coach for quite some time.

This could have been the end of my Frame Running as it was not easy having Mum as my coach!

Thankfully Phil my present coach took an interest in Frame Running and has been my coach for the last 3 years. I now train three times a week.

Over the years, Frame Running has evolved massively. It is now a recognised para-athletic sport.

Since my journey began, I’ve represented Great Britain in the European Para Athletics championships in Germany where I got a silver medal, and Poland where I won a gold medal, and at the World Para Athletic championships in Dubai where I won silver.

When I travel with the British Athletics team to these events I have to go without my family. When I went to Germany it was the first time I had been away from my family since my stroke, it was big deal, but with the team support I survived! It really helped my confidence and independence.

Because of Frame Running I’ve made friends, gained fitness and it’s been a superb boost for my mental health. It has also helped me accept my disability and has given me opportunities I didn’t think possible.

My other interests

When I’m not Frame Running, I enjoy spending time with family and friends. I also enjoy trike rides, going to the gym, and enjoying the outdoors. I am signed to a modelling agency called Zebedee talent and I have had some exciting jobs with them.

How the Be More Bailey Foundation has helped me

A huge amount of thanks and appreciation goes out to the Be More Bailey charitable foundation. My first Running Frame was very heavy, and to progress I needed something lighter weight. Be More Bailey charitable foundation funded a Wisp Running Frame which was much lighter and enabled me to go faster and get lifetime best times.

The next progression for me is to have a bespoke Running Frame that is made for me and allows me to run my fastest, Be More Bailey charitable foundation have offered to help with this, and I couldn’t be more grateful.  If it hadn’t been for them, I may have not pursued what is a beautiful, beautiful sport.

My dream

Ever since I was a young nipper, I’ve always had a passion for racing. My ultimate dream is to be selected to represent Great Britain in the Paralympic games. We are waiting to find out if Frame Running will be included in Paris 2024. I would love to bring home a medal!

The Be More Bailey charitable foundation are helping to make that dream come true.

I hope others in situations like mine can find their sport and share similar experiences to mine and I hope this brilliant charity keeps on growing!