28th April 2016 – Tell it Straight Competition – DCU.
On Friday the 17th of July 2015 I will become the first visually impaired runner to take part in the Energia 24 Hour Race challenge guided by John ORegan, a former winner of the Irish Championship event and 3 time National Champion. I will tackle the 12-hour element of the Energia 24 Hour and compete alongside 142 other competitors running the 24 hour, 12 hour race and relay race – including two relay teams from Energia, I will be at the start line at the Mary Peters’ Track on Friday July 17, at 6.45pm.
Competing in this race shows that running is for everybody, there are no limits and with this race there’s no finish line. Every four hours there is a change of direction on the track to lessen the impact on the body from turning the same direction constantly . With the change of direction there will be a leader board update and if I get too tired from running then I will switch to a run/walk strategy. By walking I will still be still clocking up the kilometers and I have been told that one advantage with the Mary Peters Track location is that it is far enough away from housing that the track loudspeakers can be used throughout the night. Hence, music will be continually played over the loudspeakers along with race commentary which help with staying awake.
Running in this race is not going to be easy but if it was easy then everybody would be doing it. If you can outlast pain and discomfort on the other side of it is success. Pain creates the reward of success. It creates the prize of getting my finisher medal.
Everyone has had an obstacle to overcome – a barrier to success. Will this race be easy? No. Will it be challenging? Yes. But I have to go through it to become strong, to be stronger. It’s time to take my body and mind to the next level. I am not a quitter. I am a survivor. I will struggle through this race but I will make myself get through it. I am building a foundation of mental toughness that will continue to expand. Through difficult tasks you begin to learn a lot about yourself about discipline about resilience about how to be a better person. You don’t truly appreciate relaxation unless you have worked hard. I will go through a lot of mental gymnastics in the 12 hour race but I am willing to face this mental battle and fight back. This is what being an athlete is all about – challenging yourself – challenging yourself to another level. My haters want me to fail, they want me to give in but I am making the decision now, I won’t give up and I won’t give in. Day after day I will do better. I will grow. Doing this race isn’t about where I am starting from – whether I am at the bottom of the rank or at the top – greatness is not about talent – it is about effort and I am willing to put in the effort to get through the 12 hour race. This opportunity of doing the race can change my life, my mental strength. So I must not doubt myself. All I need is for me to believe in myself. Self-motivation can change the world.
A journalist recently asked me so when was your last 10 hour run? To which I replied – I haven’t done a 10 hour run. The journalist seemed surprised and further enquired so what runs have you been doing to prepare for the 12 hour race in Belfast? Have you run 8 hours or even 6 hours? I replied no. I told the jorunalsist all my runs over the past few months have been short runs 10 miles, 13 miles, 15 miles. My longest run has been 4 hours 52 minutes and that was done in February 2015 when I did the Donadea 50k. Since February I have done a marathon in 3 hours 55mins and another 4 hour run and so I am very UNDER prepared for this 12 hour race. In fact, the decision to do this race wasn’t made until only recently. In June a person joked with me that soon I would be doing 100 Km or 12 hour races as a step up to my 50k. I replied to the person saying: ‘Are you mad – running around a track for 12 hours would be mentally and physically exhausting.’ Little did I know a few weeks after making this comment that I would now less than a week to the start line date be writing this blog post. So am I prepared for the race – the answer is NO but I won’t let that stop me. I would prefer to fail trying then not try at all.
Some obstacles I will encounter during the race due to my sight are:
• The noise on the Track will be disorientating and may affect my concentration.
• Running within the confines of a lane will take a lot of effort as I find it hard to run in a straight line which will require lots of contact with my guide runner John. Normally when I am out running on the road I drift from left to right and the guide runner has to straighten me up a bit or if in a safe area allows me the freedom to drift from left to right. In this race I won’t be able to be drifting as I will have to stick to my lane.
• Stepping off the Track for personal needs breaks / toilet stops and eating & drinking on the move will be difficult due to my limited vision as it will take me more time than a person with full sight.
Some people in the last week have been asking me – so are you doing this race to try and win it? No. I think given my lack of preparation and such a late decision in deciding to do this race that the best I can hope for is to actually make it around for the full 12 hours without being physically and mentally exhausted and drained. This race will make or break me. It will either make me want to further challenge myself in future and set more extreme goals or it will break me and I will give up running if I don’t do well in the race.
Human beings have two powerful primal instincts. One is to avoid pain, the other is to move towards pleasure. I keep imaging how much pain and discomfort I am going to be 6 hours into the race and I will have another 6 hours to go. My heart will be pumping, my legs burning, I will be dripping enough of sweat to put out a small forest fire. I will try and take care of the elements that can contribute to pain – hydration, nutrition, etc but what’s left? My mindset on the day will play a huge part in my ability to handle pain.
I try not to think about being in pain for 12 hours running. I try and tell myself well some women go through labour pains for 24hours and so if they can do it then I can suffer a bit for 12hours. I try and tell myself suffering for 12hours is nothing compared to people who battle life threatening illnesses every day and have to receive gruelling treatment. I tell myself to think of people who don’t have the opportunity to get up and run. For all those people who suffer, for the people who don’t have the opportunity to run – I will be thinking about you all for the 12 hours and that is what will motivate me to run. Nothing is more motivating than reminding yourself the WHY of achieving a goal. It’s crucial to remain in touch with what inspires you. I hope I do the people of my home town Youghal proud. I hope I inspire young people to believe in themselves and to keep fighting through the gauntlet of life.
I never aspired to be a runner. I never had it on my bucket list of things to do – to do a 12 hour race on a track. I have just fell into running by chance. When I was in school I was always left on the PE bench. I was always choosen last to be part of the team. Did it affect me? Yes, I told myself back then that I was worthless and that I would never achieve. In April 2012 I turned 30 years of age. The same month I agreed to run a 10k race for a charity for blind children. Voluntary work has been a big part of my life since I have been about 8years of age helping various charities. Hence, saying yes to a 10k race was never in doubt for me. It was only after promising saying yes that I thought to myself – well what is a 10k? How can I run without a guide to guide me because I can’t run myself trying to use a white cane! I also then started questioning about how I have never been involved in any sport and so how would I have the fitness level. At the time I had a very basic fitness level of one or two times a week going to the gym. The more I asked questions the more self-doubt crept in. To get rid of the self-doubt I told myself there was only one question that I needed to ask myself – WHY was I doing the race? The simple answer was to help blind children and to inspire them to believe that they can contribute in life and have ability and not to let anyone in life make them feel put down. When you know the WHY you will make the HOW and the practicalities fall into place. Your WHY will drive you to find solutions to practical obstacles. I completed the 10k race and from there my running journey started. In the past three years there has been a gap of about 10months of no running due to not being able to find a guide. However, at present I now have two guides Denis Kelleher based in Cork and John O’Regan based in Dublin.
I never considered myself a runner. In a short space of time I have achieved a lot. I was the first female visually impaired athlete to compete in the Dublin marathon. I am also the first known visually impaired athlete to complete an ultra-marathon in Ireland – I completed a 50k in February 2015. Earlier this year I forced the mini marathon office to reverse a decision and change their policy to allow my male guide run with me.
In May I went to Brazil and completed the Wings for life World Run. There were 1413 females in the race and I was 23rd female home – running in 29 degrees heat. I pushed myself to the extreme and ended up in hospital after the race because I had travelled half way around the world to do this race and so I wanted to give it everything I had in me.
In June I did the women’s mini marathon in Dublin and I came home in 104th place out of 40,000 females. I won the visually impaired category.
Thank you to Maria Moynihan for doing a super interview in Irish Country Living Magazine today. I hope the readers enjoy the interview.
Check out the online link here.
Sinead Kane speaks to us about her experiences of bullying and how she overcame them. Sinead is now undertaking a PhD and tells us about the research she has done and the results of that. She speaks to us about what we can do to help those who have suffered from bullying and how we can change their lives for the better.
Sinead Kane is a full-time PhD researcher with the National Anti-Bullying Centre at DCU, a qualified solicitor, a certified m ediator, a writer for the Irish Criminal Law Journal, a motivational speaker and a director with Ablevision Ireland. Volunteering since an early age Sinead has worked with the ISPCC, NCBI, Irish Guide Dogs, CASA and Childvision . Having earned her BCL law degree and an
LLM M asters in law from UCC , Sinead successfully lobbied for the introduction of a section of legislation in 2008 in relation to assistance for blind solicitors in court.
The above achievements are admirable but even more so when one considers that Sinead only has 5% vision and is registered as legally blind since birth. Sinead has overcome many challenges throughout her life and now wants to help others to see that adversity can be overcome.
Follow Sinead on Twitter: @KaneSinead
This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.
Sinead Kane, a visually impaired runner from Co. Cork, will be joining thousands of other athletes across the globe in the Wings for Life World Run on Sunday 3 May. Born with only 5% vision in each eye, Sinead will be guided through the streets of Brasilia by Ireland’s 2014 Wings for Life World Run winner John O’Regan. At the same time in Dun Laoghaire, Ireland’s competitors will set off for the only race with no finish line.
How excited are you to be part of the Wings for Life World Run?
I just wouldn’t have believed you if you said to me three years ago, when I was doing my first 10k, that I’d be running in a global race now. As a child I was bullied because of my disability, I was always left sitting on the bench in PE class because no one ever picked me. I never experienced sport growing up so I feel like I’m living a bit of my childhood now in my adulthood.
You’ve overcome a lot in your life, how do you keep moving forwards despite set backs?
Every time I think about my life I think about that show Gladiators and the gauntlet game where the person had to get through six gladiators who are punching her down as she’s trying to run. I kind of think of that as my life, I’m constantly getting knocked down and having to get back up. But what I’ve learned is that we don’t do life by ourself: there’s always people there in the background helping you. That’s the essence of what John and me have, we work well as a team. John is helping me run competitively which I wouldn’t be able to do with someone else. The whole thing about Wings for Life is ‘running for those who can’t’, well John and me are showing that.
It was less than three years ago you started running but you completed a 50k race in February in under five hours.
I was asked to do a 10k for Childvision, a school for the blind in Drumcondra. At the time I didn’t know what a 10k was but I automatically said yes because it was for blind children. I don’t drive so I can’t comprehend distance in a sense, to me 10k could only have meant crossing the road. I was thinking to myself, ‘sure it can’t be that long’. It was only when I was training that I started to think it was exhausting.
Last October you became the first blind woman to complete the Dublin Marathon. You did it in just over four hours but you almost didn’t make it.
Well, it was three hours up and three hours down on the train every week to meet a guide to run in Phoenix Park. I was worried about my progress so started adding a mile a week which you’re not supposed to do. Then on the day the guide wasn’t strong enough. I had never factored in that I might be stronger than the guide. I knew I could do it under the four hours but the guide slowed me down. At 24 miles I could no longer stick it, a bit of courage and a bit of foolishness kicked in. I let go of the tether and took off. I did 4.01 and was extremely disappointed because I felt that my disability held me back. I do have that ability, I’m not just a disabled girl trying to complete the course.
And you’ve been training with John since?
After the marathon he felt I had potential to get better so I’ve been training with him since October and now we’re off to Brazil so John can run past another of the seven wonders of the world.
Join Sinead Kane and John O’Regan and run for those who can’t on May 3rd in Dun Laoghaire for the Irish leg of the Wings for Life World Run.
The refusal to allow me to run with a Male Guide highlighted a wrong that had never been questioned and I thought that if I didn’t do something to get it changed then it would affect other future participants with a disability from wanting to take part. There were talks of making an exception in my case and that was all because I stood up for myself against something that I felt was wrong but this was about more than just me and I didn’t want any favours or special treatment. This forced a change in policy by the VHI Women’s Mini Marathon and they released the statement as appears below.
Thursday, 12th March 2015
The Women’s Mini Marathon Limited has reviewed its policy relating to visually impaired and wheelchair entrants.
To preserve the female character of the event only females can enter. However, we appreciate that some visually impaired or wheelchair entrants need assistance. We have changed our policy in this respect and will welcome both male and female assistants for these entrants. Male assistants will be given a special permit to allow access, while female assistants can either enter the event or receive a special permit.
Kathy Endersen, Deputy CEO said “we have always welcomed visually impaired and wheelchair athletes in the event and do our utmost to facilitate their needs. Sinead Kane participated in our event in 2012 where she came second in the visually impaired category and we look forward to receiving her entry for this year and wish her every success.”
For further information:
Please contact: The Women’s Mini Marathon Limited (01) 293 0985
Following on from the news item as per my last blog post John told me that this was going to be a big story as we could see how popular it was becoming and the reaction it was causing. The next morning I woke to find my original tweet had been retweeted almost 100 times which eventually peaked at over 150 retweets and then the calls started to come in for radio and newspaper interviews. I was starting to get overwhelmed with all the attention but agreed to speak with Anton Savage on Today FM by phone with John on another line to tell our story which he was finding hard to believe. The interview went quite well even though I felt slightly under prepared but all I did was tell the truth about what happened and voiced my disappointment. The interview finished and then I just wanted it to stop as it was all getting to be a bit too much and then I got a call back from Today FM to tell me that the race organisers had called to say they had changed their policy and they wanted us back on air. We went back on the show to answer a few questions which were mostly about how we felt. I was caught off guard and hadn’t expected the change in policy so I became slightly emotional but was so relieved with the positive outcome.
See below for the update as published by The 42.
THE ORGANISERS OF the Women’s Mini Marathon have done a u-turn and will now allow a visually impaired and wheelchair athletes to compete with male guides.
The42 reported yesterday that Sinead Kane, who has just 5% vision in both eyes, was told she could not compete in this year’s event because her guide is a man.
John O’Regan — who has operated as Mark Pollock’s running guide — was due to assist her during this year’s event on 1 June in Dublin.
But this morning on their Facebook page, the organisers released a statement confirming that male guides will now be allowed.
“The Women’s Mini Marathon Limited has reviewed its policy relating to visually impaired and wheelchair entrants. To preserve the female character of the event only females can enter.
“However, we appreciate that some visually impaired or wheelchair entrants need assistance. We have changed our policy in this respect and will welcome both male and female assistants for these entrants.
“Male assistants will be given a special permit to allow access, while female assistants can either enter the event or receive a special permit.”
O’Regan had stated yesterday that they planned not to run even if the organisers changed their minds.
“We’ve decided that even if they change their mind now, we would not be willing to take part as it just feels like we’ve had to fight for this and that’s wrong, you shouldn’t have to fight for the opportunity to compete.
“We might not be able to change the rules but we want to highlight how wrong those rules are.”
Following on from the Donadea 50K I was chatting with John O’Regan about my running and he suggested that I revisit the race that started it all off for me as he reckoned it would be a great measure of how far I’d come. Having recently ran 44:15 in a recent 10K Race I had earned a place with the elite runners up at the start meaning I didn’t have the disadvantage like before of being caught with the crowds at the back and could concentrate more on the running than trying to avoid the congestion and would have less worrying about getting tripped up and falling.
It seemed like a great idea and I asked John would he run it with me as my guide. He agreed and went about checking how a guide can register and what followed was a sequence of events that led to changes that will make it easier for runners with a disability to take part in the future.
It’s a long story and I’ve copied the text from the first news item about the story that received over 30,000 views, was shared on Facebook 1826 times, tweeted 348 times, emailed 30 times and received over 70 positive comments of support.
My thanks to Steven O’Rourke
SINEAD KANE, WHO has just 5% vision in both eyes, has been told she cannot take part in this year’s Women’s Mini Marathon because her guide is a man.
John O’Regan — who has operated as Mark Pollock’s running guide — was due to assist Sinead Kane during this year’s event on 1 June in Dublin.
However, today Kane was told by organisers that she would not be allowed a male guide despite having trained with O’Regan since last year and running a 50km ultra maraton with the experienced guide in February.
O’Regan told The42 this evening that organisers of the event failed to see the importance of using a trusted guide.
“A running guide for a visually impaired athlete has to be fitter and faster than the competing athlete for safety and security purposes. If the guide is not, then they will not be able to catch the athlete if they fall, or direct them out of the way of an obstacle.
“I’m not there as a competitor, I’m just there to assist as I’ve done with Mark Pollock on his adventure races and like I did with Sinead when she ran an ultra marathon on 14 February.
“I’m not looking for a medal or goody bag or anything, I’m just there to help Sinead safely compete in the race.”
In correspondence seen by The42, organisers of the event offered to find Kane a replacement female guide. However, O’Regan says that while this would help Kane take part in the race it would stop her from competing and performing to her best.
“Running like this — especially when the athlete is trying to record their best time and push themselves — requires a great deal of trust between the guide and the runner which can only come from hours of training and getting used to each other.
“No other competitor is being denied the chance to compete at their optimum, it’s wrong really.
“For me it’s especially disappointing as there will be so many men wearing women’s clothing taking part in this event and yet I’m not allowed guide Sinead.”
O’Regan was speaking on behalf of Kane — who qualified as Ireland’s first visually impaired solicitor in 2009 — and says the pair have taken their case to the Minister of State for Sport and the Irish Sports Council, all to no avail.
“We’ve decided that even if they change their mind now, we would not be willing to take part as it just feels like we’ve had to fight for this and that’s wrong, you shouldn’t have to fight for the opportunity to compete.
“We might not be able to change the rules but we want to highlight how wrong those rules are.
“Sinead actually said to me, ‘now you know how I feel’, as, for all the setbacks she experienced through having a disability — in school, in college and in athletics — and now, when she’s starting to get involved with and feeling some form of acceptance through sport, she gets knocked back again.
“So we won’t run now because Sinead — whose love for athletics began when she was asked to run the Women’s Mini Marathon on behalf of Child Vision in 2012 – doesn’t want to be under the spotlight with people thinking I’m giving her an unfair advantage.”
In a statement issued to The42 late Wednesday evening, the organisers of the Women’s Mini Marathon said:
“We are reviewing the individual case that has been flagged and we will do everything we can to find a solution that works for the athlete in question.”