A blind, transgender woman is tackling this year’s Great North Run, in memory of her father and to raise money for Northumberland Pride.
Sarah Stephenson-Hunter, who grew up in Amble, is training for the world’s biggest half-marathon on Sunday, September 9.
For most people, the thought of running 13.1 miles is daunting, but for Sarah, the task is even harder, as she has lost her sight.
The 46-year-old will be tackling the course – from Newcastle to South Shields – with a guide.
And when she joins the crowds at the start line on the central motorway, Sarah will know that the reasons for taking on the race are personal.
Sarah will be running in memory of her father Vince Stephenson – a proud Northumbrian from ‘The Drift’ – who died of lung/spinal cancer in 2011. On top of this, Sarah, who had surgery to turn herself from a man into a woman, will be running in aid of Northumberland Pride.
Last month, Alnwick staged the county’s first Pride festival and march – which was a huge success – and the 2019 event takes place on June 1.
Sarah, who lives in Nottingham, said: “Growing up in Northumberland as a blind person wasn’t easy and this was made tougher by having questions about my gender identity which I kept hidden until a few years ago when I came out as trans and began gender transition.
“I’m raising money for Northumberland Pride as I really believe in the great work they do to support LGBT+ people.
“I really want to raise money to help next year’s event be bigger, brighter and bolder and I want to help make a difference to other LGBT people, to show that we matter and it is not something to be ashamed of.”
Sarah, a former pupil of Amble’s Coquet High School, said that she has had issues with her eyesight since she was young. The deterioration was gradual, but she lost her vision completely about seven years ago.
She also had to battle personal questions about her gender identity. She said: “In my childhood, it was very much at the back of my mind, because of the problems I was having with my eyes, and Northumberland isn’t the most diverse of places and it wasn’t something I could talk about. I started to become aware of it when I was about 11.
“I got married when I was 26 and I thought it would cure me, but it didn’t. Then it all got to a point when I completely lost my vision and my dad died and all these feelings that I’d tried to hide exploded and I didn’t have the energy to fight them any more.”
She began the formal transition in 2013. Following her gender change, Sarah, who is now re-married to a woman called Claire, said: “I am happy as me now and I feel that I have got the body I should have always had.
“My dad never got to know me as Sarah, but I know that he would have accepted me as I am now.”
The Great North Run will be Sarah’s third half-marathon. It comes after a confidence-damaging incident in Liverpool, where she tried to pass some other runners but tripped on a kerb and split her head open.
She said: “I need to trust my guide. What happened at Liverpool dented my confidence, but there’s risks in anything you do and I want to show that having a disability doesn’t have to hold you back.”
To sponsor Sarah, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/sarah-stephenson-hunter