‘Walled City Marathon has a special place in our hearts’

An inspirational Northern Ireland family who have been repeatedly refused a place in the world famous London Marathon, will be among hundreds of competitors taking part in the O’Neills Walled City Marathon in Derry/Londonderry on Sunday, 2nd June 2019.

Known as Team Kerr, David and Sandra Kerr push their 21-year-old son Aaron in his custom built wheelchair, and the assisted running trio have completed almost 40 marathons.

Aaron has complex needs but that has not held back the family from Annahilt in Co. Down, who say the annual Walled City Marathon will always have a special place in their hearts.

David Kerr, who donated a kidney to his son in 2010, said: “This will be our 4th Walled City Marathon and if all goes to plan, it will be our 37th marathon in total. The Walled City Marathon will always have a special place in our hearts as it was our very first marathon back in 2015. The support we receive all around the route is fantastic, as well as the welcome and hospitality from the event organisers each and every time.” 

The family had to skip the 2017 Walled City Marathon after Aaron’s old running chair broke two weeks before the event and they were unable to source a trusted replacement in time.

With numerous marathons under their belt, Team Kerr remain extremely disappointed at having been refused entry to the prestigious London Marathon on three separate occasions.

David explained: “We have taken part in more than 100 events as Team Kerr, including 34 marathons, all whilst promoting inclusion and disability awareness. We have a 100% safety record and testimonials from numerous race directors complementing us on our professionalism and attitude, but London Marathon have refused to let us enter.

“The reason they have given us is that as Aaron cannot complete the marathon under his own power, then he cannot be a competitor.  We have asked for Aaron to take part as a non-competitor, but that has also been refused. They have said that a competitor can be helped to an upright position, but that they cannot be helped in a forward motion.”

Team Kerr’s aim is for assisted running, which accommodates people with disabilities, to become a regular feature in road races around the country. They have also set up Aaron's Army, a registered charity, which raises money for running chairs for other families facing similar challenges.

David Kerr said his son also loves the regular training they put in before each marathon, regardless of the elements. “Getting out on the road is Aaron’s main social outlet. He can find it difficult to express his feelings and is at his happiest with the wind in his hair and the sun on his face.”

David explained that while they had always been “quite an active family”, it was mum Sandra who first took up running as an outlet after Aaron underwent his kidney transplant in 2010. This resulted in lengthy stays in hospital for both her husband and son who then followed in her footsteps.

"We are a closely-knit team and the three of us train together. We don't try to break any records, our aim is to get from start to finish. We're not Usain Bolt but we start and finish as a family," Aaron’s dad said.

Aaron’s bespoke running chair enables him to be almost at eye level with the other runners which makes him feel very much part of the event.

David added: “Aaron is very well known in the running community. It’s always great to hear his name being shouted out by supporters along the route and, we anticipate that the Walled City Marathon will be every bit as special for us again this year.”

Team Kerr completed the Manchester Marathon on 7th April to be followed by the Belfast Marathon on 5th May before making a much-anticipated return to the banks of the Foyle on 2nd June for what the assisted running family hope will be their 37th marathon.

As David explained, everything depends on Aaron’s ongoing health. They have already competed in 29 of the 32 counties in Ireland and ultimately aim to round that up to all 32.

Even the infamous incline on Fahan Street which marks Mile 25 in the Walled City Marathon, doesn’t appear to faze the indefatigable Team Kerr. David said: “Fahan Street is tough but we have pushed up considerably steeper and longer hills. No matter how many marathons you end up doing, you can never get the feeling back from that first marathon.

“We like to complete our marathons in around 5-6 hours. There is a lot of people still on the course at that stage and we know that we will have plenty of support right up to the finish line.”

The O’Neills Walled City Marathon takes place on Sunday, 2nd June 2019, starting from the Everglades Hotel on Victoria Road at 8.30am. Entries are limited to 1,500 places and runners are encouraged to register as soon as possible before the closing date on 15th April. The entry fee is £50 and all competitors received a bespoke Walled City Marathon Medal, t-shirt and goodie bag at the finish line.