Blindness hasn’t stopped me from being able to run.
I come from a small seaside town in Ireland called Youghal. I was born visually impaired with four eye conditions: aniridia, coloboma, nystagmus, and glaucoma. I have just 5% vision and I am registered legally blind.
I find reading very difficult on my eyes and they get sore quite quickly. I have a variety of different magnifying glasses to help when reading. I am very sensitive to light and reflection and I have to wear my sunglasses when outside. I don’t see depth and can easily fall off curbs and steps. I always use a white cane.
I found school very tough. I was bullied a lot because of my disability, and it had a huge impact on my confidence and self-esteem. I was never involved in sport as a child. In fact, I didn’t take up running until age 30 in 2012.
On the Run – and Into the Record Books
Running has changed my life and given me a lot of confidence. However, running has also brought me many setbacks, as I have been discriminated against many times. However, on those occasions I have stood up for myself and I brought about change so it doesn’t just help me but it helps any other runners who come behind me.
Within the space of three months I was awarded two PhD doctorates. In October 2017, I received an honorary PhD from the National University of Ireland. In December 2017, I achieved my academic PhD from Dublin City University.
I only did my first marathon in October 2014. Now I hold the Guinness World Record for being the first blind person to complete a marathon on each of the seven continents, a feat which I completed in less than seven days in January 2017.
I am also the first Irish female to do the World Marathon Challenge – seven marathons on seven continents within seven days – Union Glacier, Antarctica followed by running a marathon in Punta Arenas (South America), Miami (North America), Madrid (Europe), Marrakech (Africa), Dubai (Asia) and finally Sydney (Oceania). I came in joint-first in the marathon in Dubai. I also hold the Guinness World Record for furthest distance for ANY female on a treadmill in 12 hours.
Qualifying as Ireland’s first visually impaired lawyer, achieving two PhD’s and running seven marathons on seven continents within seven days (six days, nine hours to be exact) have been some of my greatest achievement to date. However, they won’t be the last.
If, like me, you have a dream, think of ways to make it happen. Take the baby steps needed to get there. It may take years, but it is very worthwhile. Baby steps give you time to stop and smell the roses along the way and adjust to the new life you are building. It isn’t easy creating a new life for yourself, so be kind to yourself like you would a good friend. Dream big, step small, and keep going.
Dr. Sinead Kane is a keynote speaker, double PhD doctorate, double Guinness World Record holder, freelance researcher, visually impaired athlete and qualified lawyer. Right now, she’s facing discrimination due to the fact that she runs with a sighted guide.
Photo credit for featured image: Mark Conlon, World Marathon Challenge