On Friday 17th of July 2015 at 6.45pm I stood at the start line of the Mary Peter’s Track in Belfast.
Knowing before the start that I’d be running for 12 hours and going through the night without sleep was mentally challenging before the race even started.
I am feeling happy after finishing 2nd in the Energia 12hr Race in Belfast with my first attempt at this type of race. I stayed on the Track for the full duration of the race and covered a distance of 109.87Km which beat the previous Irish event record of 105Km. I used to think that good results only happen for other people but through previous races I have proven that I’m just as good and now I’ve had the opportunity to prove it and be judged on my ability rather than my disability. Before the race started I said to myself that today is going to be a good day because I’m going to make it a good day and that it was.
The race started at 6:45pm on Friday and finished at 6:45 am on Saturday – 17th July 2015 and the distance I completed = 109.87K / 68.3 Miles which is the driving distance from Dublin City Centre to Newry or the distance from my hometown of Youghal to Cork City and back plus a lap of the town. Because of my visual impairment I find it hard to work out time and distance and thinking like this helps me put the distance covered into perspective but if someone had asked me to walk from Youghal to Cork I wouldn’t have thought it possible. Sometimes the limitations are in our minds.
Results of the day
Felt privileged to be at the event and to be surrounded by such great athletes and previous winners.
I found the race very tough because from the start I knew I’d be expected to run for longer and much further than I’d ever ran so there was a lot of unknown. But having said that I’ve always lived with the unknown and never know what to expect in any race but I believe that if you want something bad enough you can overcome your own fears and self doubts.
Obstacles for me during the race
- Flood lights of track – very sore on eyes even with me wearing sunglasses
- Chip mats at the start area of track / trip hazard.
The flood lights came on around 10.45pm and with that came the pain as they started to hurt my eyes. I got into a negative mindset and just after midnight I started getting upset and brought on a panic attack. My guide runner sat me on a chair at the side of the track but I wouldn’t stay still as I kept thinking I was losing time and wanted to get back running again. The panic attack caused a drop in my body temperature so I changed my clothes to include a jacket and long running trousers. The total amount of lost was probably less than 5 minutes but to me that seemed a huge amount of time and I was feeling more stressed by not running. When I got back running I settled and calmed down a bit. My body temperature began to increase again with the warmer clothes on and I tried my best just to not look at the flood lights but it was difficult. I then got into a positive mindset and asked one of the support crew at around 2am would they make me a cup of green tea and have it ready for 2.45am. I told myself in advance that at 2.45am I would walk a lap of the track to drink my green tea and this gave me something to look forward to. I set mini rewards for myself every hour and this helped get me through the night. At 5am when it got bright and when the flood lights were turned off I found it much easier on my eyes and in turn I wasn’t as stressed out. Another difficulty was watching my guide runner John O’Regan being sick during the race because and when I saw him sitting down I wanted to sit down.
During the tough times of the race I thought of all the people I’d told about what I was doing and didn’t want to let them down.
I was emotional towards the end of the race when I learned I had beat the course record of 105km and stopped briefly to give my guide runner John O’Regan a hug because without his assistance of guiding me around the track I wouldn’t have been able to do the race.
- Taking risks in order to succeed
Don’t allow others intimidate you and diminish your self-belief. I went into the race as an underdog. Nobody thought that I would be a threat to winning the race. People assumed that I was just there to ‘complete’ the event as opposed to ‘compete’ in the event. When I was first asked to do the race I enquired about the other competitors when I learned of their distances I thought to myself there is no way I would come 1st, 2nd, 3rd or even 5th, I focused on their achievement too much rather than focusing on my own potential and my ability. Thus, I was intimidated and lacked self-belief in myself. But when I stopped concentrating on others and focused on myself and my own achievements the self-belief and positive attitude came back. This was also helped through consultation with my guide runner based on his experience of this type of event and his belief in my ability.
For me it wasn’t just luck on the day – I had put in preparation but out of all competitors I was the least prepared as my longest run had only been 4hrs 52mins and that was done in February of this year. However, what did stand to me was the ‘quality’ and consistency that I put into my shorter sessions. Also what stood to me was mental strength over physical strength. I have encountered a lot of adversity in my life and from such adversity I have learned to be resileient and I think that is what helped me during the race to gain such a positive result.
I have gone from people telling me that I won’t be able to do something to now asking what I am doing next. The reason for that is that people are believing in me and judging me on my ability and not my disability. This is what I set out to do – to be visionary not blind. I want to be a role model for others.
It was refreshing to have the opportunity to use my strengths to be competitive and be judged on my ability rather than my disability.
Big thanks are owed to the following people
Thanks to all those who believed in me and supported me. Special thanks to my support crew: Irish International Ultra Runner John O’Regan – guide runner, Gary McConville from the Irish Ultra Running support crew, Colm Howlin & Aidan Blake. I also owe thanks to my Sponsors Great Outdoors (Dublin) and RonHill UK and thanks to the race director Ed Smith for welcoming me to the event.
Photo credit in this blog post is due to Ryan Maxwell – Northern Ireland Running News and Stephen Bassett via Energia 24 FB page.