Running Blind, Helen’s story of deafblindness, running and fundraising

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Helen had lived with hearing loss all her life, but had no idea that she would also lose her sight by the time she was 40. Incredibly, Helen’s journey led her to running, fundraising and even writing a book! Here, she tells us her story…

“I’ve always been a sucker for a challenge”

“I was not a runner until September 2016, when I was challenged to run the London Marathon. Nothing unusual about that, except at the time I was a 59 year old registered blind guide dog owner! I’ve always been a sucker for a challenge and of course I rose to the challenge with a guide runner to keep me on track and safe. I did the Bath half marathon 6 weeks before it as a training run and from that point on, I was hooked!

“I managed to raise nearly £7,500 for charity, I think being in the position I was made it easier, as people were in awe of someone my age, who had never run before and couldn’t see, taking it on in the first place.

“The bonus was raising £12,500 for charity that year!”

“In 2018, with a new guide, I entered and completed 2 x 10k and 2 x half marathons in preparation for the London Marathon. As if that wasn’t enough, my guide runner convinced me that I should do my first ever triathlon too, to wind up all the other events of the year. Prior to doing that, I had never ridden a bike! I learned to cycle on the back of a tandem and my swimming, quite frankly, was rubbish. I overcame the fear of water and learned ,with my guide’s help, to swim properly. Just after my 61st birthday I completed my first triathlon! Wow, what an amazing sport that is. The bonus was raising £12,500 for charity that year!

“At the point of lockdown in March 2020, I was swimming 50 lengths every other day, getting stronger and faster, it was also helping my running and cycling stamina,  improving my breathing.  I have found that competing in triathlon sports helps build up strength, it is good all round exercise.

“In 2020 I was told I also had macular degeneration. My original sight condition, Retinitus Pigmentosa (RP), has taken all of my peripheral vision and the macular degeneration is taking my central vision. My left eye is the worst affected, but I’m grateful for the residual vision in my right eye which is useful rather than ‘good’.

“It isn’t about what we can’t do, it’s about what we can.”

“In June 2023 I published my first book ‘Running Blind’ Helen McCann.  This was something that I was asked repeatedly to do, once the seed of the idea was planted, it was inevitable that in the end I would give it a go. The book has two alternating story lines, one covers my personal life story from the age of 5, the other my Marathon journey, the story lines come together at the end of the book.  Neither story line is predictable and my book isn’t just for runners or the visually impaired, it’s for everyone and aims to raise awareness and dispel preconceptions about living with disabilities.  It isn’t about what we can’t do, it’s about what we can.

“I’m fast approaching 67 and instead of taking a gentler approach to life, I have signed up for another triathlon in September as well as The Bath Half Marathon and The London Marathon in 2025! A lot of work ahead, training and fundraising.

“I am also currently writing my second book which is called ‘Blind Tri’ this features my triathlon journey, with an alternating story line that focuses on my sight loss and guide dog journey.

“My attitude to any condition has always been, “what can I do to help myself?” rather than “What tablet can I take?” Running and the triathlon sports have been a huge benefit to my health and well-being, both physically and mentally. I have a level of confidence I never had before I came out of my comfort zone and started to do things I never dreamed I would ever be able to do at any time in my life.

“I would have laughed at anyone if they’d told me, at the age of 20, that one day I would run a marathon or do a triathlon!”

“Do I wish I didn’t have or could change the conditions I’ve had to deal with? I would never have wished for them, but those conditions have made me stronger and the person I am today.

“I like to think they have made me more compassionate and understanding of the difficulties other people have to face. I have done so much that I would never have done if I hadn’t been affected by sight loss or auto immune diseases, I would never have done marathons or triathlons, I wouldn’t have had as much to prove to myself and I certainly wouldn’t have raised the funds I have for charity. Not only that, I have made some fabulous friends!

“So, no I don’t wish I could change my situation, I have a lot to be thankful for and there are many people much worse off than I am. I’m not going to let any of the conditions beat or define who I am!”

Click here to order your copy of Helen’s book, Running Blind.


Inspired by Helen’s story? Click here to find out how you can go the extra mile for Deafblind UK! 


 

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