A CARLOW woman who has been blind since birth has spoken of her newfound love for running, saying it has transformed her life in a few short months.
Forty-one-year-old Karen Kealy from Carlow town has the zeal of the converted when she talks about her new hobby and credits her running guides as “amazing people, who have literally run into my life”.
She explains that never having run before, she needed the push and the confidence to get going and this came in the form of Joan Ryan, who is part of the hugely popular nationwide ‘Parkrun’ initiative.
“I never ran before and really only started on New Year’s Day this year. A friend of mine loves running and she gave me the nudge to try it. She actually introduced me to my first guide runner, Deborah McArdle, and that was it, I got the bug. I can’t tell you how much Joan has helped me,” she said.
“She gave me the courage to actually do it in the first place and introduced me to a huge new circle of people who are incredible. My running guides Deborah and Noleen Condron accompany me on different runs and I have already signed up for the women’s mini-marathon on Sunday 3 June.”
Karen will be fundraising for the National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI).
“I find it exhilarating and when I can do it for an excellent charity like the NCBI, which has been in my life forever, all the better”.
Karen, who is a former bank employee, says she feels that she now has a purpose.
“I am not working, which is difficult, but now I have a purpose; I have somewhere to go and things to chat to people about. I am part of the community and I just love it. I have made great friends and we have such a laugh. Running has been good for my mind, my figure and my social life!”
“My running guides are just the best. They are kind, so generous with their time and great craic, too.”
One of Karen’s sighted guides, Noleen Condron from the Ballickmoyler Road in Carlow, says that she has also made a wonderful friend in Karen.
“From the minute I met her, I felt as if I knew her all my life. This was very important to me, as I was as nervous as she was starting out. We did our first run in Oak Park in Carlow and got on like a pair who had been running the roads forever. I told her that I wasn’t a fast runner and she said neither was she. It was a new experience for both of us and we learned together. Karen is great fun and makes the running a fun occasion and that’s what it’s all about.”
Karen is anxious that other people with sight loss in Carlow try out guided running, saying it could open up a whole new world to many.
“I am not joking when I say it has totally changed my life for the better, I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. Start practising now and you’ll be fit for the women’s mini-marathon in June!”
If you would like to participate in the women’s mini-marathon for NCBI, contact colette.mcentee @ncbi.ie.