Women & Sports: Sinead Kane, Marathon
Keynote Speaker, Double PhD doctorate, Double Guinness World Record holder, Freelance Researcher, Visually Impaired Athlete, & Qualified Lawyer. Sinead is proof that this girl can!
"You can't prevent a storm but you can prepare for it.."
Sinead is also a double Guinness World Record Holder. In February 2018 she broke the Guinness World Record for, Furthest Distance For A Female On A Treadmill In 12 Hours. Sinead is also the holder of a Guinness World Record for being the first blind person to complete a Marathon on each of the seven Continents, a feat which she completed in less than 7 days in January 2017. She is also the first Irish female to do the world marathon challenge. Sinead and her guide runner [John] completed their first Marathon of this challenge at 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).
Sinead came joint-first in her marathon in Dubai. This is all remarkable given that Sinead only did her first marathon ever in October 2014 and only took up running in April 2012.
The above achievements are admirable but are even more so when one considers that Sinead only has 5% vision and is registered as legally blind. Sinead has overcome a lot of adversity throughout her life and now wants to help others. Sinead proves how those who persist in spite of a disability can develop determination, motivation, and creativity.
You have a long list of sporting achievements, when do you realise you had a passion for marathons?
I realised I had a passion for marathons when I gained the self-confidence and self-belief in myself. At the end of my first marathon in October 2014 - my run coach, John O’Regan told me that he thought I had a talent for ultra marathons. At first, I didn't believe him but sometimes it takes someone acknowledgement, for you to be able to believe in yourself. John coached me and helped me to prepare for my first 50km, which I completed in February 2015. It was a great achievement and I did quite well for my first attempt. Johns continued belief in me, helped me to further believe in myself and in October 2014, I decided to compete in my first marathon. I never thought beyond the finish line - for me one marathon was going to be enough but now I was intrigued and it grew my curiosity to continue running had begun.
You competed in the World Marathon Challenge, 7 days, 7 continents, including Antarctica. Did you ever feel out of your depth and how did you train your mind to compete with these kinds of mental challenges?
I felt out of my depth before I even went on the World Marathon Challenge. There was a lot of fear and anxiety within me. Fear stops us from doing our goals. I had a fear of flying, so I nearly didn't end up going, because I was afraid to even get on the plane!
During the world marathon challenge, to combat the negativity, stress and anxious self-talk in my head I used the following tools:
- I set myself realistic goals. For example, the conditions are so harsh in Antarctica that there was no point thinking about personal bests (PB), my main focus was to just complete the marathon.
- I broke things down. When the whole event seems too enormous for me. I broke it down into smaller chunks and just focused on 1 day at a time.
- When things got very tough, I had to remember I wasn’t alone - I wasn't the only one suffering, there were 32 other competitors going through exactly what I was going through!
- When the Antarctic wind and cold left me feeling sorry for myself, I reminded myself of all the things I am grateful for - how fortunate I was to be competing in Antarctica, a continent which is rarely visited.
You have 5% vision and are legally blind, what advice would you offer to young women, who might also be struggling with their own personal struggles and setbacks?
Time - Setbacks create feelings of self-doubt and disappointment. Allow yourself time to acknowledge your feelings of disappointment. But put a time limit on how long you will focus on that feeling.
Meaning/Why - Losing motivation is a setback and when this occurs you need to call on ‘why’. You need to ask yourself why do what you do and remind yourself of those answers. Having the answers will help you re-energise and build on your motivation.
Control - There will always be things in life that we can’t control. For example, I couldn’t control being born with a disability but I can control how I live my life. When you find yourself worrying, take a minute to examine the things you do have control over. You can't prevent a storm but you can prepare for it. You can't control how someone else behaves but you can control how you react. You can control your effort and your attitude. When you put your energy into the things you can control, you'll be much more effective.
Who is your biggest advocate and what makes them so supportive?
My family has been the biggest advocates because they see me go through all the ups and downs. They see me put in all the hard work that happens before each marathon. They see me make sacrifices and try to help me through those difficult times by listening and believing in me - even when I don't believe in myself. They offer support and encouragement to focus on my goals, on the days when I don't have the motivation to focus on my goals myself.
What advice would you give women who want to start running marathons - where should they start?
- Realise it is about mindset. There are many days, despite my achievements, that I really don’t want to go out and train. However, I guarantee no matter what distance you do 3km, 5km, 7km 10km etc when you come back you will feel good. I always do. Running is free, you can do it anywhere – what a great incentive to know.
- Running requires little equipment. A good pair of running shoes and a good sports bra is essential.
- Be patient with your training – To avoid injury and enjoy the experience, it’s essential to ease yourself into running slowly and increase your pace and distance gradually over several runs.
- Stay motivated – Some days will be good, some days you won’t hit the targets that you want to and that applies to whether you’re a novice or experienced. Running has taught me a lot about being patience whilst still maintaining consistency to reap the end result. A good way to stay motivated is to set yourself a goal. On the days when you don’t feel like training – you can remember your ‘why’. Why you set the goal in the first place. Whatever your level, setting challenges is useful to stay motivated. Training for a race, such as a 5k, or a charity run is a good way to keep going.
- Incorporate running into your lifestyle and make it a habit. Everyone has a different lifestyle – a long run on a Sunday morning might not suit another person. Assess your lifestyle, test what works and then make it a habit.
- Try out parkrun. Everyone starts at the same time, and completes the course at their own pace, whether that’s running, jogging or walking. Parkrun is 5km, is a friendly event and is not a race. Some other tips, have variety – run in different areas.
- Run with a friend. Both of you will encourage the other when you’re not keen to run. You will feel that you do not want to let your running buddy down, and this will help motivate you.
- Join a running club – A run club is the perfect way to commit to running regularly. Most clubs have running groups for different levels – beginners upwards. Running in a club is a great way to make new friends.
- Preparation/Planning – Plan when you will run and stick with it. If planning to run early in the morning, prepare the night before by getting run clothes ready etc so you’re not wasting time in the morning.
- Variety – Keep your running interesting by adding variety. Running the same route over and over again can become boring. Vary your distance, pace and routes.