Forty-year-old Kay Thoburn from London is registered blind. However, with two young children and a demanding job, Kay refuses to let her blindness hold her back – especially when it comes to her running.
Just as Kay learned to overcome the challenges posed by her blindness in her day-to-day life, Kay found herself overcoming similar hurdles in her running. She has now completed endless 10Ks, two half marathons and 13 parkruns and will be running her fourth WR10K race at Brockwell Park this weekend. “I don’t let it stop me from running,” she says.
Kay is a qualified physiotherapist and, while she has some useful sight, she believes that her lack of vision has helped her to become better at her work. “I really listen to what my hands tell me instead of visually seeing things,” she says. Kay uses a speech and magnifier programme on her PC to access the Internet and uses an electric magnifier to read magazines, letters and storybooks when reading to her children. As Kay doesn’t have enough sight to drive, she walks everywhere and has learnt to rely on the support of others to help her read directions, labels and ticket machines. “My oldest daughter is really good at working out timetables and ticket machines now,” she says. “After she learnt to read she’d tell me what the screen said and I’d tell her what button to press – we’re a great team.”
After two difficult years between 2010 and 2012, going through six rounds of IVF treatment without success, Kay took up running as a means of stress relief. “It’s a very emotional process and, at the time, I put a lot into knowing the facts about IVF,” says Kay, “I used running as a way to take my mind off it, clear my head and not focus 24/7 on the treatment.” Since, Kay has found running hugely therapeutic through a series of difficult life events, including a tough adoption process and also when her father was taken ill two years ago. “I used running again to relieve the stress and get away from it all. For me running is very therapeutic.”
Although, at first, Kay didn’t feel confident enough to enter races or join a club, after her first run, she was immediately hooked. “I can’t remember how far or long I went that first time but I do remember it felt good and my head was clearer,” she said. “I soon got the running bug and kept challenging myself to run further without walking.”
The biggest challenge Kay faces as a blind runner is negotiating the terrain beneath her and path ahead. “I have to take care on uneven surfaces, as I can’t tell when the level changes, or don’t always see any potholes, bricks or branches to trip over,” she said. “I’ve had a few falls but nothing major so far – fingers crossed it stays that way!”
Navigation is also a challenge for Kay: “When running, I stick to places I know as I can’t use a GPS to find my way home. During races I can’t always see the signs or marshals till the last minute and have had to shout for directions before!”
However, Kay tells us that she has found the running community hugely supportive, which has ultimately allowed her to continue doing the thing she loves most. Kay is now a member of a running group for local mums and finds fellow runners, supporters and marshals at race events particularly helpful and kind.
Kay has run three WR10K races, with two more to come this month – the WR10K Brockwell Park this weekend, and a second Finsbury Park race at the end of the month.
“I really like these races. I’ve found marshals to be very encouraging. I’ve run Finsbury again this year and achieved my goals of getting around without getting lost and finished in the top 10! I met some lovely ladies and the support from the spectators at the finish was lovely.”