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Inspiring Danes: Team Twin

Twin brothers Peder and Steen Mondrup have built a growing running community by pairing up disabled athletes with regular recreational runners. The two Danes became role models when they completed an Ironman triathlon despite Peder’s cerebral palsy.
Danish Team Twin

At 10 a.m. on Sunday mornings, in eight different locations in Denmark, groups of colourfully dressed citizens begin their weekly run. What makes them stand out is that they run in pairs – and that each pair consists of a disabled person and a regular recreational athlete who pushes his or her running buddy in a custom-made racing wheelchair.  

The Sunday runs – which create a strong sense of community among the participants – are initiated by Danish twins Peder and Steen Mondrup.  

The brothers were born in 1980 in Copenhagen, three months early and each weighing just 1,200 grams. Peder lacked oxygen during birth, which led to cerebral palsy, and he has been in a wheelchair his whole life.

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For the first time in my life, I felt that people didn’t look at me as a disabled person. Instead, they saw me as a runner. It gave me a whole new identity and created a space where I could be free from my disability.
Peder Mondrup

In 2008, Steen came across a video of Dick Hoyt, a retired American lieutenant colonel, and his son Rick who has cerebral palsy. Together, they had completed marathons and Ironman triathlons (3.8 kilometers of swimming, 180 kilometers of cycling and 42.2 kilometers of running). 

A runner himself, Steen was moved by the video, and it planted a seed in him. Five years later, in 2013, he called his brother and suggested they participate in a half marathon north of Copenhagen. Peder agreed, and the twins completed the run, with Peder sitting in a racing wheelchair. Controlling his body during the race was hard work, making the run as challenging for him as it was for Steen. However, it proved rewarding.

 “For the first time in my life, I felt that people didn’t look at me as a disabled person. Instead, they saw me as a runner. It gave me a whole new identity and created a space where I could be free from my disability,” Peder says, sitting next to his brother in Peder’s apartment in Copenhagen.

The following year, the brothers set a new goal. In Copenhagen, they participated in an Ironman triathlon – and finished within the time limit of 16 hours. Steen pulled his brother through the swim in an inflatable kayak before switching to a custom-made bicycle and then a racing wheelchair.  

Since the Ironman, the twins have completed a total of approximately 40 running and triathlon races all over Denmark.  

“I’m the legs, and Peder is the head,” Steen says. “If I’m running too fast, he tells me, ‘Hey, slow down, we’ve got time’. Or he reminds me to drink water. I start the engine, and then I’ve got a control panel in the wheelchair.”  

For the twins, the races are not the end goal, but rather a way to get their story out and inspire others. They’ve succeeded overwhelmingly and received extensive media coverage and public support. On Facebook, the brothers have over 35,000 followers, providing them with “likes” and encouraging feedback.  

Over the years, the twins have received many awards and donations, and they’ve kept spreading the word through talks and interviews.

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I’m the legs, and Peder is the head. If I’m running too fast, he tells me, ‘Hey, slow down, we’ve got time’.  I start the engine, and then I’ve got a control panel in the wheelchair.
Steen Mondrup

In 2014, Peder and Steen Mondrup founded an association named Team Tvilling [Team Twin], thereby giving other disabled people and regular recreational athletes the opportunity to run together. By 2019, the association has approximately 500 members, spread across eight divisions in Denmark and one in Norway.

For regular recreational athletes, membership requires the ability to run 10 kilometers and participate at least once a month.

 ”We don’t require participation every Sunday because we don’t want it to feel forced. We want people to be there because they want to be there. This makes it much more enjoyable for everyone,” Steen says.

Copenhagen Half Marathon

Across the association, a strong sense of community has emerged. Twice a year – for Copenhagen Marathon in the spring and Copenhagen Half Marathon in the fall – the local divisions get together in the capital to run and socialise.

Throughout the year on Sunday mornings, the divisions organise their own running sessions, and they post pictures on social media to share the experience with the rest of the Team Tvilling community. Members of the Copenhagen division meet up outside Peder’s apartment. Up to now, Peder has only missed one session.

“Sometimes when I wake up on a Sunday morning, I feel like going back to sleep,” he admits. “However, I get motivated when I think about what this gives the other participants: Smiles, joy and quality of life. This is what keeps me going.”

Watch a video about Team Twin on their website.