Claire Ryan is 26, originally from Cork, and this year took part in her first Vhi Women's Mini Marathon — and she's visually impaired. “I need a long white stick to get around by myself,” she says. “I can see very, very little out my right eye, like colours and big shapes but it's very limited.”
Claire ran to raise funds for Fighting Blindness, an organisation concerned not only with finding treatments and cures for the condition, but also with providing counselling for patients and their family members. Established in 1983 as a support group for families affected by sight loss, Fighting Blindness has over the years evolved into a charity that has raised over €15 million for more than 70 projects. With 224,000 adults and children affected by vision impairment in this country, they are committed to finding cures and treatments, to supporting patients and family members and empowering those living with vision impairment.
With help of guide Nanda Griffioen, and heaps of trust, Claire has been training since the autumn of last year. How did that work? “We use a rope: Nanda holds one end, I hold the other. You basically move like that, and she would tell me before I get to corners, when I needed step down, what the environment was like, especially if there's rough ground.”
It sounds like a massive exercise in courage and trust. “Oh, you have to be trusting. Nanda said to me, 'You're very, very brave' and I said 'To be honest, I'd be guided around by people when we're going to things, I've always had to do that. I put your faith and trust in somebody else because I haven't got any other choice.”