Discovering Frame Running Led Michael Anwar To Paris
by Ken Stone
Michael Anwar was sky-high when he learned he was chosen for the 45-member U.S. team to compete at the World Para Athletics Championships this summer in Paris.
“Michael found out while on the plane flying home (from nationals),” recalled his coach David Greig, of ParaSport Spokane in Washington State. “We had the flight attendant make an announcement about it; the whole plane applauded.”
A 27-year-old print-shop owner with severe cerebral palsy, Anwar competes in frame running, a sport that allows him to use his legs to push a three-wheeled mobility device without pedals or gears down the track.
Greig said learning of Anwar’s selection was a “great and touching moment to cap off a lot of hard work,” but his preparation continues.
When he competes in Paris, Anwar will try to lower his own American record of 20.02 seconds in the 100-meter dash — and win a medal.
Anwar, a relative rookie in the sport, trains as much as four or five days a week, including track and conditioning workouts.
“My fitness level has skyrocketed,” Anwar said. “Having cerebral palsy, I need to be more aware of how I treat my body.”
While Anwar is new to track and field, he’s always been an athlete. Winter sports have fueled his summer fitness, as he skis and snowboards before cycling during the warmer months.
In 2020, he learned about frame running at ParaSport Spokane when one of the organization’s coaches, aware of his cycling passion, told Anwar the sport would be a perfect fit for him.
“Then COVID kind of messed everything up. And when COVID was ended, we finally got the frame,” Anwar said. “Then and there, I knew I wanted to do this.”
Anwar describes his disability, since cerebral palsy athletes have a broad range.
“My cerebral palsy ... mainly affects my motor reflexes — my arms and hands enough to make writing difficult,” he said. “My legs are not as affected as my arms. I have some spastic in my legs, basically just super tight all the time.”
Otherwise, he’s your typical sprinter. He said he does a lot of starts and longer-than-100 repeats to build up stamina.
“But the main part is having a good start ... so crucial to running a good race,” he said.
Only two years after discovering frame running, Anwar competed in the 2022 International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation (IWAS) World Games in Portugal. He befriended other cerebral palsy athletes and stays in touch with an athlete from Lithuania.
The Usain Bolt of Frame Running is Gavin Drysdale of Great Britain, who started in the sport at age 3, set world records and became an activist — posting a complaint of “sadness and devastation” after the International Paralympic Committee excluded Frame Running from the 2024 Paris Paralympics.
Anwar says he and Drysdale, 22, talk “quite a bit.” They’ll have more time to chat at the world championships in Paris if Drysdale seeks to defend his 100-meter world title from the 2019 meet in Dubai.
Greig says Anwar’s biggest challenge is learning about workout structures, strategies and knowing “exactly where to push himself to get the desired outcome from training.”
The key to training someone with cerebral palsy is balancing loading, rest and recovery, Greig added.
“Any good coach is going to be sure to closely monitor this with any athlete to ensure that they minimize the potential for injury,” he said. “But for someone with CP, and particularly someone like Michael who is more heavily involved, we really focus on quality of repetitions, quality of rest and accuracy of movements.”
Unafraid to ask for explanation, Anwar is “so aware of his body in space,” a big factor for those like him with disorders that affect ability to move and maintain balance and posture, Greig said. “I attribute that to his other sporting pursuits — they’ve really helped him dial things in.”
“I’m just the one goofy guy that is willing to put it on the line and see what happens,” Anwar said.
But being picked for the world championships team wasn’t a given.
“The global frame running community was collectively holding their breaths to see if it would happen,” Greig said. “Because his event is not a medal event at the Paris Paralympics next year, they were not obligated to name Sayers (Grooms) or Michael to that team.”
Grooms also earned her spot in the world championships through her performance at nationals last month and will join Anwar as the two Americans competing in frame running in Paris.
Greig cheered Team USA for supporting the three-wheelers.
“It makes a statement,” Greig said. “We were very glad that the cards fell where they did.”
Greig is helping Anwar focus on technical work to hopefully get him running sub-20 in the 100.
“We’ve got some work to do in his body position in the frame to maximize his running mechanics,” he said. “We’ve put in a bunch of work on his starts and that has really paid off, but his acceleration and maintenance phases of his race have some potential still.”
No matter what medal, Anwar expects Paris to be icing on this season’s cake.
“Community is everything ... meeting people, establishing relationships,” he said. “Just being part of a culture that is still track and field. ... I’m still new to the culture, but I love it — like these are my people.”
Ken Stone has covered track since the early 1970s, including for Track & Field News, and won TAFWA’s inaugural award for excellence in blogging in 2009. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial.