IN 2016, Kevin Donovan set himself a goal. His mission was to run a race in each county in Ireland in 2017 and try to raise money for two charities — the Cork Deaf Association and the Irish Deaf Society. That means 32 races in one year!
The reason he chose to support two deaf charities goes back to when Kevin was a five-year-old boy. As a child, Kevin struggled to express what he wanted to say and he couldn’t speak very well; he was diagnosed with a Specific Speech and Language Disorder (SSLD).
Kevin was sent to St Columba’s School for the Deaf in Douglas where the principal, Sr Pauline, and the other teachers nurtured his potential. His speech and grammar improved as a result and Kevin developed enough confidence to attend a mainstream secondary school in Midleton CBS. Kevin has very fond memories of his years in Douglas — great friends and great support!
He knew his time in Douglas represented a time of significant change and he always wanted to show his gratitude. The 32-county challenge is Kevin’s ‘way of saying thanks ’to the deaf community.
He got his love of running from his late father as ‘it was a sport we both liked to do’ — his father ran races himself in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Kevin was a very good sprinter but when he got his first taste of distance running in the early 2000’s with the Ballycotton 5 mile he was hooked. His father would watch the runners go at the start of the race and would always make sure to be there to see Kevin crossing the finishing line. It was the best encouragement any runner needed.
Kevin didn’t take it all too seriously as he was concentrating on his chemistry studies and gave up sports completely when he started working, but this all changed when Kevin’s father passed away in 2014. Kevin’s hometown is Ballycotton so he decided to run the Ballycotton 10 mile race in March 2016 in honour of his father as it was a race close to both of their hearts.
Kevin now manages to run three to four big races every year in England and Ireland. The 32-county challenge will definitely mean a shift in gear but 32 races isn’t a daunting target according to Kevin. The real challenge will be co-ordinating a schedule to get around to all of the counties. It helps that geography happens to be a favourite subject of Kevin’s!
The races so far have been going well and are surpassing Kevin’s expectations. Each race offers its own unique experience whether it be an easy or hard course. The toughest one so far has been the Wicklow Half Marathon as it was a challenging course with a lot of climbing and Kevin went through a difficult patch with the Run Forest Run 10km in County Down as he picked up a stitch. But two races stand out for pure enjoyment — the Dungarvan 10 mile as Kevin felt in top form and the Bundoran 10 mile in Donegal as the conditions were ideal and Kevin felt he was bouncing along!
Kevin has been very touched by the great reception he’s been getting from everyone. His family have been great support especially his wife, Mary as she has been to nearly all of the races. And it is particularly poignant for his mother and sister as they know that Kevin went back to running in remembrance of his father, so the challenge is in part a tribute to him.
As with most runners Kevin incorporates one or two rituals into his pre-race routine. He usually listens to a few energising songs on his laptop so that he can think about these when he needs to give himself a bit of a boost during the race! And the customary warm-up is essential for keeping his body in working order for his year ahead.
Kevin hopes that his 32-county challenge will prove that anyone can run the distance if they set themselves a goal!
For more, search for Kevin’s 32 County Challenge 2017 on Facebook.