Who is Sinead Kane? Sinead is a visually impaired runner from Cork and I’ve knownof her for a few years now after first reading about her in a newspaper article but we only got to know each other since last August through a mutual friend , twitter and email as she prepared for the Dublin Marathon. We then met for the first time only 2 weeks before the Dublin Marathon and the meet up was partly because she was recovering from an injury and having missed some long training runs was feeling slightly underprepared and was looking for some advice. Knowing the injury she had I may have advised her against doing the Marathon but she seemed more worried about rain than pain and didn’t really listen to the parts of the conversation where I was telling her that it might not be such a great idea.
Two weeks later and through sheer determination and ambition she proved me wrong and went on to successfully finish and in doing so became the first visually impaired female to complete the Dublin City Marathon guided by Kieran O'Reilly. Rather than feeling that sense of relief with finishing she wanted more and 3 months later we are now in the lead into the Donadea 50K (Irish National Championships) to be held on Saturday Feb 14th.
Dublin Marathon 2014
Since finishing the Dublin Marathon Sinead has become more focussed with her training and through a network of Running Guides (Denis Kelleher in Cork and Claire Powell & myself in Dublin) has managed a more consistent training routine although it’s still far from ideal as every session is a compromise (for Sinead).
In the build up to this race we’ve ran together as often as possible and mostly around the Phoenix Park in Dublin and after each session I’m left thinking that we need to run together more often but that isn’t going to happen as every training run means 6-7hrs of travel time for Sinead and that isn’t practical for a few obvious reasons including Recovery.
Sinead is quite fast and that brings extra demands for both runner and guide as it means a quicker reaction time to avoid hazards and as the pace increases so too does the injury risk. A gentle climb feels more severe for the visually impaired runner as it can’t be visually prepared for and any turns other than a gentle curve can put extra pressure on the knees. The list is endless and I could go on and on because every run is a new learning experience but come race day the learning needs to be done as this is the exam.
To help improve my guiding skills without actually guiding and to get a feel for the race route I went to Donadea and ran blindfolded over sections of the course with a friend acting as guide. It soon became obvious that what may appear as a flat surface when running with friends and distracted with conversation is a continuous obstacle course full of potential trip hazards and ankle twisting traps. Potholes appeared out of nowhere, branches were lower than I realised, tree routes breaking through the ground were never noticed before and the once familiar route that I’ve ran hundreds of times was now the unknown. I was running with my heart in my mouth and expecting to fall with every step and found it hard to fully trust my guide and this has given me a better appreciation of what’s to be expected on Race day.
This will be the fifth edition of the Donadea 50K and on completion I'll be the last of the original list of invited starters to start and finish all of the races but I’m not expecting this to be a ‘Walk in the Park’ of a Run.