Dyspraxia has had a few different names over the years ranging from ‘clumsy child syndrome’ to its most recent name Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD). When I was diagnosed in 1998 very little was known about dyspraxia. When people heard I was dyspraxic most common responses were ‘dys-what?’ and ‘Do you mean dyslexic?’.
As things turned out I was the first person in both my primary and secondary school to be confirmed as dyspraxic. This was a learning experience for everyone. To put it in simple terms dyspraxia is when someone has a difficulty with hand eye coordination or fine and gross motor skills. This can range from simple jobs such as tying your shoelaces or catching a ball to spatial awareness. Like most specified learning difficulties (SLD) how it affects you changes as you get older.
When younger, tasks such as tying your shoes or a tie have a big impact, then as you get older they will not be seen as important but suddenly tasks such as driving a car become an issue or how you adapt to social settings. For one, I drive an automatic car as a manual involves too many tasks at once for me to handle. Some tasks will follow you no matter what age you are, my handwriting is as illegible now as it was when I was 10. Similarly, my social skills are still dire. With me I like small groups of three or four people – anything bigger and I will get lost, especially as smaller pockets of groups will emerge. One thing my sisters always spoke about was my lack of a sense of danger. I had a habit of crossing the road when the cars where coming. How I never got knocked down is still a wonder to my family.
The Dyspraxia Association of Ireland annual conference in May 2006 was a seminal day for both the Association and me, because it was the first time they had someone with dyspraxia as one of the key note speakers. That day I spoke to a room of around 250 people ranging from occupational therapists teachers, lectures and parents.
I think it took this long for it to happen because people were still unsure about dyspraxia and the people with dyspraxia had confidence issues as a result. This meant they would not have been able to stand up and talk about it to a large crowd. I still remember a man from Cork asking about “giving his child the label of dyspraxia” or the person who asked “If dyspraxia affected my dating life”.
Since 2006 I am aware of at least three other people with dyspraxia who have spoken to the annual conference and I believe this to be a watershed for dyspraxia. I look forward to the day when someone is speaking as a life coach or giving a Tedx talk about life with dyspraxia. They will reveal that the tricks and hints that got them to the stage can help people with many conditions and people with none.
The reason I mention this is that one message came out from that day – parents believed that since their child was dyspraxic it was almost the end of the child’s life, the child would not amount to anything. Since that day I have given myself the aim of changing that mindset. I believe that I have done this and will keep doing so.
Roll forward to my time at the University of Limerick doing a Masters and coming across this strange concept called parkrun. Like most things in life it was a simple concept, a free 5k on a Saturday morning. At the time I could count on one hand how many venues parkrun Ireland had and it was very Dublincentric. But on 15 June 2014, Griffeen parkrun started so I planned to see what all the fuss was about. However, best laid plans and all that, work changed my hours the night before so I had to wait an extra week for my debut.
I enjoyed my first outing and went back the few rare Saturdays I was working late or had a Saturday off. But it was not till June 2015 I was really bitten by the parkrun bug. While living in Dundalk I decided to set up a parkrun, and as it turned out I was not alone in that thinking. After talking to Ireland country manager Matt Shields, it was decided to join forces with a woman named Carmel Drumgoole and work together to set up Dundalk parkrun. On 6 June 2016 Dundalk parkrun had it first event and they actually trusted me with the scanner! Even more shocking was that for events five to eight, I was the Run Director! But alas nothing drastic happened.
Shortly after that I moved away from Dundalk but not parkrun. I knew Castletown parkrun was in the works so I split myself between Griffeen and Waterstown parkruns till it launched. Once Castletown started I was given an opportunity to volunteer at all roles. After a little while I was invited onto the core team of the event. Since then I have progressed and grown with the event. I also seem to have installed myself as the go to guy for the results (I may be the proof that you cannot break parkrun). To continue my growth within parkrun I became Event Director of Castletown parkrun in September this year.
What has my journey with parkrun taught me? For one thing, anything is possible if you put your mind to it. Secondly, parkrun will allow people to grow at their own pace and will never push someone to do something they don’t want to do. It has allowed me to grow and nobody has ever said I can’t do something because I’m dyspraxic, but in the same way as other people they have asked am I comfortable doing it. They have provided the training to allow me to do the roles I enjoyed.
The benefit does not only show on a Saturday morning. Since joining parkrun I have come out of my shell a little bit. Prior to parkrun I don’t believe I would be able to speak to people whether in a group or on their own the way I can now. It has also given me the confidence to go for jobs I would not have considered myself good enough before. The reason is simple: parkrun has taught me I can do anything I want if I put my mind to it. For certain I would not have my current job working in tax for BDO Dublin had I not gained the confidence and support to grow within parkrun the way that I did.
The advice I would give to people with learning difficulties or disabilities is to go to your local parkrun and allow yourself to grow at your own pace. This may mean running or walking it until you feel confident enough to volunteer. It may be the case that when you start volunteering you only feel comfortable as a marshal or token sorter. And that’s fine – parkrun will allow you to grow at a pace that suits you. Going out the door for Griffeen parkrun event number two was one of the best decision I ever made, and a similar decision could be for you too.
Above I have spoken about how parents were at the conference in 2006 and the fear they felt. I think as we look 11 years later this fear is not as bad as it was. Parents have a better idea about what dyspraxia is and that it is not a life sentence. When we look at successful or famous people with dyspraxic we see Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Florence Welsh (Florence & The Machine) and Hannah McDonnell (Former Dublin Rose) to name a few. Having dyspraxia did not stop me, nor did it stop them. Look at Stephen Hawkins or Sinead Kane to see that disability won’t stop you unless you let it.
If I was asked to give two pieces of advice to parents of someone with a disability or long term health condition I would say:
•Remove the expression “We can’t” for “How can we?”. Look at like of James Casserly who has completed the last two Dublin Marathons in a wheelchair being pushed by Mark Lacey.
•Keep it positive. Your child can pick up body language more then we know. If they sense negativity around the condition they will develop a glass ceiling a lot lower than it should be.
parkrun has the ability to help you make friends, learn new skills, build confidence and get fit, all for an entry fee of nothing.
Photo thanks to Eavan Connolly
I have been a little busy in work so have not managed to date this page for a while. Going forward the posts will vary a little more than running. I will start posting on items like Dyspraxia and Toastmasters as well and turn it into a general site then one topic site.
Checking in after the first full week of 2018 and a busy week it was in that Monday started off the year with not 1 but 2 parkrun’s
griffeen and porterstown. I took griffeen a little easier knowing i had to do a second one completing the course in 24:37. Then i decided to leave nothing on the course in porterstown giving it my all and completing it in 23:31. As i was running two parkrun’s in one day i was happy with these times as New Years day is never one for PB’s. Just toshow a few castletown runner made porterstown we did take a selfie.
Tuesday between the rain and the wind i decided that staying in my be an idea.
Wednesday was back to tempo running and another 5k tempo run. It seemed to take a while for my heart rate to hit tempo pace but it got there in the end. It was tough than the week before but eating before the run may have been issue here.
Thursday was a nice easy 5k to shake out the cobwebs. The heartrate seems to be settling more now then the first few times. It only broke the zone with 500m or so to go.
Saturday was my second parkrun tourism of the week visiting Fairview parkrun. Very nice 3 lap parkrun. Nice and flat as well very good if looking to set a pace. Here I decided to push it moving up to 5th during the
first lap. During the second lap a made a slight misturn falling back to 7th but
slowly getting back into 5th and holding till end of the lap when i fall back to 7th. i stayed close to the the guy in front of me for most the lap but not being able to hold on a cross the line in 22:27 which is my fastest parkrun since September. After this I went onto Croke Park for an Operations Transformation Community Champions day. Some interesting stats from the day but i will post on them
another time. Before I left Croke Park I did get one photo with some of the experts from the show. Think they were more excited to get a photo with me then the other way around.
Sunday we finished off in the normal way with an LSR. This week it was 12k taking in laps of Castletown house. The pace ranging mostly from 5.30 to 5.50’s. as the time goes on getting below 5.30 would be the aim as i will need to run 4.58’s in a marathon to get my time. But was a nice crisp morning and good to see others out running as well. Moving up to 14k next week i will also be able to leave castletown and try another route.
I also decided this week as my savings plan for 2018 to save 50 cent for every km run and by my self a new suit come 2019 with the money so 41k run this week so €20.50 gone into the savings that may just get me the pocket square
Every year people talk about New Year New Me. In 2018 I wont be looking for a new me but my aim is to improve the old me in the places I can.
What I will be trying to improve in 2018 outside of running
- More core work
- Better Diet
- More work on Mindfullness
- Update the blog more
- While the above will help running if successful they are more to do with enjoying your own self and they will also give me more energy to improve on my running. Diet wise I want eat as much as possible that I have made myself and with more variety, also cut take away’s from weekly to once a month.
As for updating the blog more, I have a habit of doing very well for weeks then life pops up and gets in the way. So for 2018 I would aim to blog more. The reason is it helps my spelling and grammar but also writing stuff out can be very good for stress relief.
What I will be trying to improve in 2018 inside of running
- run a sub 20 5k more than once
- Break 3.30 for a full Marathon
- focus more on enjoying my running
- The sub 20 i know is achievable if i can focus on speed work. This is not always possible when also working on distance work. The hope is by working on speed for marathon distance some of it will work its way down to my 5k time.
Enjoy what you do and you will never work a day in your life. If you don’t enjoy something you are less likely to do it. So one item I want to work on is enjoying my running. One part of this I have started doing is running and not racing parkruns. I can also be seen skipping or jumping on parts of the course for no other reason then having the craic.
My Marathons for 2018
- Cork City
- Dublin City
- The above is the order of importance of the 3 marathons this year. Berlin is my main hope for getting the sub 3:30. Cork will be used to see how the training is going so will aim for around 3.35 in Cork. Dublin is all about doing my home marathon. In order to focus on the above I will not be doing as many races as I normally do.
My parkrun aims for 2018
- Join the 100 Club
- Get the Cow Cowl
- After my 2 New years day runs I am sitting on 72 runs. 28 in the year should be possible depending on how often I volunteering and the jobs I do.
To obtain the Cow Cowl you need to run in 20 different parkrun venues as of January 1st I have 12. The aim is to reach 20 in 2018 and to reach 30 in 2019 and make the parkrun most events list.
While i know as ED of Castletown parkrun completing the above 2 will be harder so if I hit one by the year end I will be happy.
The day started well an extra hour in bed thanks to day light savings. Got up to a simple breakfast of wheatabix’s and zero tabs. Meet up with a few from Celbridge AC for the bus into Dublin. As we neared Westmoreland st we could see all the runners heading to the start. In what was a first we arrived before the gate was open so we waited around for a few minutes till we were sent to a different gate to get in. While waiting I bumped in Liz O’Neill so I was talking to her before we went to drop our bag in. After dropping the bag in I chatted to some of the parkrunners who were working the bagdrop. After waiting around for a few minutes and bumping into Neasa Ni Dhoibhilin I went to warm up then was time to get into my starting place.
The plan was to set off with the 3:40 pacers but could not see that at the start so I set off near the 3:30 pacers but planed to go at my own speed. My average time needed was 5:12/km first km was a little slow at 5:24 so i sped up and a bit to much and did the next one in 4:45. At 10k I knew I had not had a big enough breakfast as my stomach was rumbling so I took a gel to fill the gap. For the 1st 18k I was between 4:44 and that 5:24 from the 1st km. My left ankle was a little dicey from 11k I was walk running but more running then walking. At 10k I was 90 seconds up on my expected time. 19-21k went 5:24, 5:45 5:55 meaning at the half way stage while I was on 3:40 pace it would not finish near it.
My 24th km time of 5:57 was the last sub 6 minute km in the race the 25th km to 33rd km floated between 6:10 and 6:41. The 34km was my first to be over 7 minutes. 4 of the next 5 were in this range. At this stage I saw a sign saying 5 miles left by now i was walking more then running. I messaged the girlfriend who was meeting me at the finish to say I had 5 miles left but they would be 5 slow miles. At this stage I was trying to stay positive and try to give a thumbs up to anyone to shouted my name but inside I was struggling I knew that if needed I was walking to that finish. At this point I was only able to run maybe 200/300m before the ankle was flaring up and walking continued. Some people have done lamp posts. I was doing bus stops then again I was also different, Starting to run at one stop and continue to the next. I was starting to see the regular places I knew which helped me alot but I dont think I have ever been smiling come UCD this year was no different 200m was all I could run at this stage and was very much gritting my teeth to continue.
As the numbers went up I was getting a little more positive knowing I would complete the course. Come the RDS I was not well I was maybe able to run 50m in one go. Just after this I meet my sister, brother in law and nieces. My sister admits she nearly cried at this point as I did not look well. As I nearly the 2k remaining mark I was running as much as I could it was a mixture of the crowd support and determination getting me to the finish even as I saw the 400m to go sign I tried to run but even at that only got 100m running so I walked a 100, jogged lightly for 100 and ran the last 100 to cross the line in 4hrs 11 minutes 47 seconds. This was my 4th Dublin and 7th marathon but easily the hardest one since my first in Dublin in 2013. Now rest up and see what the plan is and my journey for a Sub 3:30 will go into 2018. I’ll take the winter now to allow my body to be pieced back together. Thanks to all the support along the route especially Sharon Ashmore, Alicia Ashmore, Joan Ryan and Niamh Adams. right now i say i’m done with Dublin but next year ill be back at that starting line.
They say to run you need to be a little bit mad. I think to run marathons you need to be totally mad.
My name is Philip Slattery and i have a running addiction. This blog will be my trails and tribulations of all things running.
From my journey to get a constant sub 20 5k (so far I broken it once) to the journey to run all the marathon majors. Major number 2 in Berlin coming in 2018
When not running the roads of North Kildare and West Dublin Dublin training I can be found at Castletown parkrun where I am Event Director. If you don’t know what the fuss about parkrun is get yourself to one you will not be sorry.
The sub heading to the site “the run is only part of the story” is due to an old Muhammad Ali quote “The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights”
As a friend once told me a marathon is not 26.2 mile race that just the end of it. Its the early morning and late nights training building up to it that will really define the race.
Have a look around the site and enjoy the visit. I will try post a new blog at least once a week.