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Karol describes the thrill of racing 01.09.08

CARNDONAGH athlete Karol Doherty is one of hundreds of athletes from the North West and further afield who have been training tirelessly for the Tesco Waterside Half Marathon later this month.
As a young boy he was involved with cross-country clubs, which in turn led him to be a regular participant in the running circuit. By the time he was a young man Karol was competing on an almost weekly basis, travelling across the country to take part in races. In December 2003 Karol won an award for completing all five of the Bobby Mullan 5K races that had taken place that season.
But only a few months after competing in the Bobby Mullan races, tragedy struck and Karol found himself in a wheelchair. His life had been completely transformed but where many would have faltered and resigned themselves to a list of lost opportunities Karol's absolute passion for sport ensured that one aspect of his life did not change.
" I didn't take up racing for some kind of therapy, I didn't need to. I had already discovered how amazing this sport is. I simply continued to do something I love, something which I have always devoted a large part of my life to and as before the thrill of being in a race is as great as ever."
While the emotional ups and downs of racing stayed the same for Karol, the physical challenges have changed completely. When asked if he would describe himself as a wheelchair athlete he says no, that he
Karol makes it to the finish line.
is just an athlete and refers to the Irish Wheelchair Association director of sport Mairead Farquharson who states that wheelchair racing is now recognised as one of the toughest competitive sports an athlete can participate in.
"The focus of my training has shifted to the upper body so I divide my time between the gym and my racing bike. Competing in races is definitely more demanding like this, it's incredibly tough to go the distance, it's one hell of a long time to go round."
Despite this Karol is still a very successful competitor. He participated in two half marathons within one week last year and came first in one of them with was the National Half Marathon held in Ballybofey, Co. Donegal.
Karol Doherty Before his accident Karol had never taken part in a marathon although he always planned to eventually. Since then he has raced in the Dublin, and Belfast marathons, he has also compete in the half marathons of Derry, Omagh, Strabane, Lisburn and has loved the experience, although he found that the Belfast course was not very wheelchair friendly with much of the route being uphill. In stark contrast both Dublin and Derry have great routes and do attract wheelchair racers. He explains: "It's not about winning, although of course there is an element of competition that gears everyone up on the day. There is also a great social element, everyone gets to know each other and enjoys meeting up at various races, it has always been like that."
Karol's family have also been so moved by his appreciation of the sport that both his parents ran in the Waterside Half Marathon with him last year. They both had a love for running but neither had attempted a race this length. Their achievement wasn't wasted on Karol who was delighted they took part and proud of what they did.
"A half marathon is such an achievement for anyone, if you can do this, you can do anything, nothing can hold you back - that goes for anyone."
Karol will join hundreds of other athletes when takes part in the marathon on Saturday, September 13. For more information on this race or any of the other races taking place on the day log on to www.derrycity.gov.uk/halfmarathon  or contact Gerry Lynch at Derry City Council on 048 7136 5151.
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