Sinéad Kane is no stranger to uphill challenges – in her academic, working and sporting lives. The qualified solicitor has two PhDs, has run marathons on all seven continents, and holds two Guinness World Records.
The Cork woman is also legally blind.
As students prepare for next month’s Leaving Cert examinations, Kane is more than qualified to offer advice to those who believe there is one all-or-nothing path to fulfilment and success.
"People are often really focused on this end goal of, say, at 18, 'I have to do a law course, because that's my way to becoming a solicitor'," says the Youghal native. "And if they don't get that course, then life is over. That's understandable, I've gone through those situations myself. But really it is about the journey you go on to grow.
People need to realise anyone can go blind through accident or illness
“I was never involved in sport as a child, or as a teenager, or in my 20s. And then I took up running at age 30. Since then, I’ve two Guinness World Records; I have run seven marathons in seven continents in seven successive days. You just don’t know what can come.
“In 2012, I was asked to do a 10k run. I didn’t know what a 10k run was, but I just said yes. I wasn’t saying yes because I wanted to do a world marathon challenge. It just led on to it. Sometimes, by saying yes you go on a different path – it brings you on an experience.
“So even in that disappointment (such as not getting on the college course you wanted) you should say to yourself, ‘Well maybe this is an opportunity to experience something else’ – and even if what you want to do is still there as you are going down this other road, at least you are still gaining skills that can be transferred over. Skills I’ve gained in running I’ve transferred to my working life.”
Bright for sight
Kane recently helped launched the Sightsavers Bright for Sight campaign, which is asking people to wear something yellow on June 22nd and make a small donation.
“A lot of people take their sight for granted,” she says. “They think that’s an issue for people who suffer visual impairment through genetics. But people need to realise anyone can go blind through accident or illness. Not to scare people, but even as you age your sight deteriorates. Eyesight is an issue, even if you don’t have a problem.
Having just 5 per cent sight has not, apparently, slowed her down much. She holds the Guinness World Record for being the first blind person to complete a marathon on each continent. And, in February, “I got the longest distance for any female on a treadmill in 12 hours (the record was 128.62km; Kane did 130.5km). Then I decided to attempt the record for 24 hours. But I picked the worst weekend ever – the May Bank Holiday weekend, which was extremely warm.
“I will attempt it again.”
For more information and to download a fundraising pack, see sightsavers.ie/bright