|Denis and Sinead training in their native Cork|
Guide to be guided at Connemarathon 10th April...Denis Kelleher (51) from Midleton, Cork, is about to take on Ireland’s most scenic marathon – blindfolded!
On Sunday morning, 10th April, Denis will take one last glance over Lough Inagh before heading for the hills blindfolded in the Connemara International Marathon. It’s a role change for Denis who normally runs as guide with vision impaired training partner Sinead Kane.
“I really want to understand what it feels like to run without visual distractions.” says Denis “No looking at birds, trees, what’s going on around the marathon course. I need to understand the concentration required when you run for hours with no visual distractions”.
Denis, originally from Macroom in West Cork, loves the outdoors. He is a landscape gardener who spends his spare time hill walking, rock climbing, swimming and cycling.
10 years ago he took to running and has completed 19 marathons incl 2 ultra-marathons to date. He has completed the classic marathon distance in just under 3 hours and 20 minutes which he ran in Dublin.
While out training with friends at Cork’s Mardyke running track 2 years ago Denis met Sinead Kane, a fitness expert and keen ultra-runner.
“I got talking with Sinead but didn’t know she was vision impaired. She could just about see where she was going by concentrating on the White, track markings. I soon understood her issue and volunteered to assist her as running off track would not be possible for Sinead without a guide.”
Denis and Sinead began pounding the roads and trails together in preparation for the 2014 Dublin Marathon. “I felt we were doing something positive. At the beginning I felt very nervous, and was unsure of how to describe what was ahead. Sinead was very patient and informative of what to look out for: obstacles, terrain, dogs, buggies, pot holes, bollards, ramps.” Denis says “Calling directions at the right time is so important. For safety I always lead while training, especially in tight areas such as walkway's or where we might turn into tree or bush areas.”
To help create awareness of guide running with a vision impaired person Denis will run Connemarathon blindfolded wearing a t-shirt with the Vision Sports Ireland logo (NGB for vision impaired sportspeople).
Last Autumn Denis made the decision to get a real insight into what it feels like to be guided rather than being the guide. Initially he was planning a short race. However, he soon set his sights on the tough but beautiful hills and valleys of the Connemarathon, which he previously ran on 3 occasions.
“Yes, Tim was very good to volunteer,” says Denis. “I have trained with Tim just twice on track and we ran one road race together and left it at that. I decided there would be no more training until the day of the big race in Connemara
“I want to be nervous on race day and get the real feeling of what I might face, and deal with whatever comes my way. I feel what may ultimately catch me is concentration. I just won’t have the same distraction other runners will experience as I listen and not see. I suppose I’ll just concentrate on counting down the miles.
“I have found guiding a wonderful and rewarding experience. I would recommend other runners to give it a try. For one day only I look forward to seeing it from the other side”.
Denis Kelleher’s blindfold marathon challenge will begin at Lough Inagh in the heart of Connemara on Sunday 10th April at 10.30 AM.
For more information on Vision Sports Ireland, go to their website HERE