News - 6th May 2020

I couldn’t have been more wrong

Máiréad O’Mahony is visually impaired and made her parkrun debut in January 2019. Until the global pandemic, she hadn’t missed a single week, whatever the weather.


Here Mairead tells us about her parkrun experience.


For a long time, I knew parkrun existed but ruled out participating as I had the perception you needed to be able to run and I am a walker! I couldn’t have been more wrong.


When I first went along to my local Tralee parkrun I soon realised that parkrun is for everyone, whether you walk, jog, run, volunteer, use a wheelchair or have a buggy. Nobody ever comes last as there are always Tail Walkers and people giving encouragement and cheering you on along the route.

It wouldn’t have been possible for me to participate weekly in my local parkrun if it wasn’t for the people who volunteer as VI guides. Tralee parkrun has benefited from the guidance of Joan Ryan, Disability Ambassador for parkrun Ireland. Joan has championed the cause of VI runners for which I am so grateful.



Visually impaired people use multiple guiding methods that work for them, such as a guide rope or linking arms with their guide. My preferred method, that gives me the most confidence, is to walk using my cane while lightly linking arms with my guide.  



The guides do a brilliant job of explaining what is around me as we go along, turns that are coming up and other parkrunners coming past or we are catching up with. Over time I’ve become more and more familiar with the course, so the guides don’t need to give me as much information.


At the end of each lap I like to check my watch, as I time each lap and try to get a little faster on the next one. Along the route, I get lots of encouragement. My guides tell me I do chat too much!



For me, parkrun is more than just a weekly 5k walk, jog or run. I have formed lots of friendships and there is a brilliant social aspect attached to it. Going for coffee after is also a fantastic way of getting to know other people that you might not get to chat to otherwise.



parkrun isn’t all about how fast you can complete 5k or getting a PB every week, although it is great when they happen! There are lots of people participating at Tralee parkrun who are delighted to guide every week. It’s brilliant for me to know that I will never be short of a guide for parkrun or other walks I would like to do in the future.


 Mairéad O’Mahony


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