The English Federation of Disability Sport (EFDS) website features a blog post every Friday through the year. This week is Deaf Awareness Week, promoted by the UK Council on Deafness, with the theme of ‘Celebration’. To mark this, Philippa Merricks tells us what she gets out of being active.
I am 29-years-old, profoundly Deaf and a British Sign Language user. My main sport is running, and I’ve recently taken up cycling and open water swimming for triathlon.
I regularly run a few times a week by myself or with my husband-to-be, Steven. We both regularly participate in parkruns – either at our local event, or sometimes as ‘parkrun tourists’ in different places across the UK.
I started running in 2011 for Race for Life, which led to me joining parkrun in Preston, North West in 2012. Steven and I are both passionate about running. He actually proposed to me in mile 10 of the Uganda Half Marathon in June of last year.
Steven is also profoundly Deaf, and has been sporty all his life with football, badminton and many other sports. Like me, he’s now a parkrun addict after going on his first parkrun on his birthday with me. We’re aiming to do our 50th parkrun together on our wedding day next week, but unfortunately there won’t be any parkruns nearby so we’ll have to wait until after the honeymoon!
I always feel good during and after exercise. Being active helps me to separate myself from the fast-paced London life. It’s my form of relaxation, even though many people might think I’m crazy to cycle 30 miles a day to and from work once a week, and also to run 15 miles home once a week! It’s a good way to get away from crowded tubes and trains, saves money and as a bonus, it’s healthy.
Participating in sports like running, cycling or swimming has never been a barrier for me as everyone has always been friendly and welcoming. parkrun especially is fun and inclusive. It gives me an incentive to meet new people and visit new places, gets me out into the open air and allows me to scratch a competitive itch as I strive to improve my times week after week.
I’ve got a busy summer 2017 lined up… I’ll be taking part in the Birmingham Black County Half Marathon, the long-distance aquathlon and triathlon at Hever Castle, New Forest Marathon, cycling 100 miles at RideLondon, not to mention many more parkruns!
If you’re interested in getting involved, there are wide community supports on Facebook – I moderate two groups, Deaf Runners and parkrun for the Deaf and hard of hearing. Both groups have members from all over the UK with both Deaf and hard of hearing people from different backgrounds, experiences and levels.
I would encourage anyone to give any form of exercise a try as you never know, you could end up loving it. I’d especially recommend parkrun, which tries to be inclusive and accessible for people with disabilities. It has set up a special project, the PROVE project, to make parkruns more accessible and has recruited volunteer champions for lots of different disabilities. I’m proud to be one of parkrun’s Champions for the Deaf and hard of hearing. If anyone has a question about the PROVE project they can get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Thinking about trying out a run? parkrun organise free, weekly, 5k timed runs on Saturday mornings around the world. They are open to everyone, free, and are safe and easy to take part in. Visit the parkrun website to find an event near you.