Blind runner Anne an inspiration!


Anne O’Connell is a 66-year-old woman from the London Borough of Newham. Having only had partial sight in childhood, she later developed a disease which caused her to lose her sight completely. However, she has not once let this affect her enthusiasm for just about everything!

Being a former head teacher, Anne has always had an insatiable appetite for knowledge. She is currently a practising Magistrate and sometimes presides over appeals for the Crown Court while studying at Birbeck University. She is also a qualified Health and Social Care worker, volunteering all across the country to help both disabled and elderly people with their everyday needs. She considers them to be the eyes, and she will be their shoulders for them to lean on when they are in need.

Anne’s ultimate goals are for her to retain the independence she already has, improve the skills she already has to become more independent, meet new people and to gain more knowledge, especially in the areas of criminology, architecture and modern art of which she is very keen.

Anne first got involved in running when attempting to run the London Marathon for The Guide Dogs Association charity five years ago. She wanted to raise money to buy, raise and train a puppy as a guide dog. However, as she was not able to go on the course alone, Anne needed support from her friends and family for someone to be a guide runner to complete the course with her. Eventually, she was able to find someone and work with them to try to complete the race. Unfortunately though, Anne ended up hurting her back during the race and still has not fully recovered up to this present day, which made her nervous about getting back into running.

With her nervousness for running being more of a mental than physical problem, she started looking around for places to learn how to run and someone read her the flyer for Run England sessions. It turned out to be a great decision and Anne remembers how accommodating the group leader was.

She said: “During the first session, Coach Winnie (Winnifred Akyeampong) emphasized the warm up and the importance of it. She then asked me to walk one lap along the track. However, Nessie (my guide dog) and I came off the track because Nessie did not know how to go around the track and only knew how to walk in a straight line. We ended up in the bushes around the first bend which we all thought was very hilarious! Nessie learnt a lot that day and so did I about the shape of the track and what to expect.

“As weeks went by, I aimed to get more laps done along the track with varying rest times. I slowly progressed from walking to fast walking then to jogging. I improved from just being able to exercise for 10 minutes to being able to exercise for 45 minutes!

“Winnie is open, friendly, extremely inclusive, patient, intuitive and empathetic. She matches the individual’s level with appropriate work. She rings every week to make sure I am okay which is very reassuring. She gives confidence and encourages me! I absolutely love it and Newham is lucky to have her!”

Anne gained heaps of confidence from her running sessions and is now less frightened of jogging and running and is surprised that she enjoys it so much, and, as a bonus, so does Nessie!

Coach Winnie said: “Anne is the most inspirational individual that I have ever known. In spite of all her ailments, she braces the early morning chill and comes out and works hard every week. She is quite hard on herself and insists on completing every challenge set for her. Her wonderful dog Nessie and she make a great team and I hope that she continues to support Run England however and whenever she can!”

Anne has been coming to Run England sessions for the last six months and has improved greatly in that period. She has not yet taken part in any competitions but would be interested in doing the Newham Run in 2012 to coincide with her nomination to be a torch bearer for London 2012.

Good luck to Anne!

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