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She Can't Hear, Can Barely See, But She Will Race

Mokena woman's son, who will be her guide in two half-marathons this year, says other runners shouldn't "take it easy" on his mom.

Mokena resident Kelly Monahan, and her 13-year-old son Andrew Medina. | Photo provided.
Mokena resident Kelly Monahan, and her 13-year-old son Andrew Medina. | Photo provided.
MOKENA, IL — Kelly Monahan needs her 13-year-old son Andrew. His arm steadies her, as she navigates uneven terrain in her running path. He sets the pace, and she stays in stride.

He will lead Monahan—who is deaf-blind—along each leg of two half-marathons this spring and fall. Monahan loves to run, and refuses to let her disability keep her from finding her stride. 

The Mokena mom aims to run the total 26.2 miles, and she's pledged to raise money for The Chicago Lighthouse for People Who Are Blind Or Visually Impaired. With Andrew by her side, the finish lines are within reach. 

"I think I can do it," Monahan said through a sign language interpreter. "I'm hopeful I can do it."
 

The Biggest Challenge

Monahan, 38, has Usher Syndrome Type 1, which results in a combined vision loss and hearing loss, in addition to nystagmus in her eyes. She speaks through sign language, and she taught it to her hearing sons Andrew, 13, and Luke, 14, early in their lives. 

A single mother, Monahan said her condition initially created barriers between her and her sons, which they steadily have broken down. 

"My sons have been very patient," Monahan said, noting her pride in their openness. 

She began running with her father several years ago, slowly increasing her distance. She uses a guide to avoid other runners and follow the route. She has completed 5k and 10k races, but this spring will be her first attempt at a half-marathon.

Monahan will participate in the Chicago Half Marathon Series program. She will run the Chicago Spring Half Marathon May 18, and Chicago Half Marathon on Sept. 7. 

"The biggest challenge was getting to the finish line," Monahan said of her previous race efforts. "I've always dreamed about doing 26.2 (miles)." 

'Glad She's Going to Push Herself'

Monahan's condition often causes her difficulties in finding her footing—that's where running partner and son Andrew comes in. She will hold tight to his shoulder or bicep for assistance throughout the race. She will don a shirt noting her deaf-blind status, and he will wear a shirt identifying him as her guide.

And he's so proud of his mom. 

"She has always wanted to do hard things herself, even though she's disabled," Andrew said. "I'm glad she's going to push herself."

Andrew expects his mom to fall in step with the pack, and expects runners to treat her as they would any other competitor.

"She keeps a really good pace," he said, offering a bit of advice for the other runners. "Try not to bump into her, do your best.

"Don't try to take it easy on her."

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DeWayne Meeks March 31, 2014 at 01:40 AM
I am glad that the elegant lady will run the race and what a great character her son has in the fact that he wants desperately for her to run as anyone else would. Hope she finishes the race, she rightly deserves it...
Paul W March 31, 2014 at 09:48 AM
If she can see well enough to speak sign language, she is not blind!
Jennifer Lehman March 31, 2014 at 11:48 AM
really paul read the story again you missed it. i hope she does well and finishes the race.
Iris Dandi March 31, 2014 at 07:42 PM
Proud of both of them
sewbizarre April 01, 2014 at 08:01 AM
This is wonderful! Good luck in both races.

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