Local deaf group members ‘sign up’ for Waterside Half Marathon

Stephanie O'Kane from Action on Hearling Loss with Daniel McDaid, Annette Devenney and Lisa Dawson and Tommy McCallion, RISE Running Club. Picture Martin McKeown. Inpresspics.com.
Stephanie O'Kane from Action on Hearling Loss with Daniel McDaid, Annette Devenney and Lisa Dawson and Tommy McCallion, RISE Running Club. Picture Martin McKeown. Inpresspics.com.

Participating in the Waterside Half Marathon is a challenging task for most, but for Annette Devenney, Lisa Dawson, Caroline Doherty and Daniel McDaid, who live with hearing loss, taking part in this year’s event will be a major accomplishment and a life-changing experience.

The group got involved in running through the Healthier Lives Project, a Big Lottery funded project which aims to support people who are Deaf sign language users and people who have hearing loss or tinnitus, to access their local physical and leisure activities whilst raising deaf awareness.

It was through this programme that the group took part in the Couch to 5k initiative organised through Derry City and Strabane District Council.

Annette says she found the 10 week programme really tough and there were times when she thought she couldn’t do it. “It was really hard, really tough and I wanted to give up but the coaches encouraged us to keep going. They understood our needs and used visual aids such as flags rather than whistles to help us. All of the coaches were very eager to be deaf aware and did all they could to learn some sign language so they could help and encourage us through it.”

Caroline says that issues with communication have meant that participation in many sporting activities and clubs has been difficult.

“Being deaf, many of us have at some point in our lives joined various classes such as yoga, aerobics but have had to withdraw as communication has been difficult. It’s a bit frustrating to be five minutes behind everyone else or to be going in the wrong direction. The Couch to 5k programme at Templemore Sports Complex was a totally different experience for us, we had qualified BSL and ISL interpreters there, all of the coaches were deaf aware and the programme was tailored to suit our specific needs.

“We weren’t treated differently, we were normalised and we got a fantastic welcome and felt very much part of the group. For all of us it was like here we are, in our home town, and we finally got to be part of a community, other than our deaf community, in such a positive way.”

Daniel McDaid, who originates from Moville but currently lives in Redcastle, Co. Donegal, says running with the group has been life changing for him. “I love all sorts of sport, I play lots of darts and snooker and used to play football with Gleneely FC but I never had any interest in running until I took part in the Couch to 5k. Being part of the group has been absolutely fantastic for me. It has given me a new lease of life and a great sense of positivity. I have never felt so fit and healthy and full of energy. It has shown me that I can do anything I want all I need to do is to put my mind to it.”

Lisa Dawson says she can’t believe that she has progressed from the Couch to 5k to run the Waterside Half Marathon. She says that once the programme was complete, the coaches encouraged them to join local running club RISE and be part of their wider running family.

“Tommy and Eddie McCallion were our tutors in the Couch to 5k and they persuaded us to keep up the training and join the RISE Running Club, which has been a fantastic experience for all of us. Since joining back in May we have successfully completed a series of 5k runs for different charities such as the Colour Run, the Caolan McCrossan 5k, Omagh 5k etc.”

She says while she is hugely excited she is also very nervous. “I have never run a marathon before. My toughest challenge will be crossing the Foyle Bridge, the height scares me a bit but I am looking forward to crossing the finish line and seeing my family there. They have been very really supportive and they will be out in force on 06 September to support and cheer me on but also to cheer on everyone in my club, which is now my extended family!”

Caroline says participating in the relay team at the Waterside Half Marathon will be an emotional day for her. “Since being part of the RISE group since May, I am fitter, healthier and I run with a cracking bunch of people. I cannot imagine not running and I just can’t believe that just last year I was watching from the side lines and this year I will be doing it myself!”

Annette believes that her participation in the Waterside Half Marathon relay race will be a great achievement not only for her personally but for people with hearing loss everywhere. “I want to show all deaf people we can do it!”

For Daniel, this is a massive goal worth aiming for. “This will be a huge achievement for all of us, we have trained so hard and put in so many hours to make sure we are fit and ready for the challenge. It will be an unbelievable feeling when we run across the finish line on 06 September – our hard work will have paid off and we will be so proud!”

Stephanie O’Kane, a Health & Wellbeing Advisor for Action on Hearing Loss who has played a key role in encouraging the group to join up to the initial Couch to 5k says she is delighted with the progress they have made in such a short space of time and the confidence it has given them whilst encouraging other deaf people or those with hearing loss to get involved.

“We are delighted to be working in partnership with the Derry City and Strabane Council and the Templemore Leisure Complex. It has been an absolute pleasure working with the staff. At the start of the year the team welcomed people who are Deaf or have hearing loss into their Couch to 5K running programme and the fact that the group are now training for a Half Marathon with the local RISE running club speaks volumes. It is fantastic to see local services sharing our vision of accessibility for all, where people with hearing loss are not unfairly restricted from services and facilities. Good luck to all the runners in the Waterside Half Marathon!”

For more information on the event, including the new route go to www.whm15.com