Megan Al-Ghailani is the youngest woman and first hearing-impaired person to run across the country. She has an inspirational story and Women’s Adventure Expo are so pleased that we can share it with you! Megan is a true adventure heroine and advocate for adventure and diversity – Find out more about Megan and follow her here
KEEP GOING MEGAN, you have a beautiful story and we can’t wait for your next adventure!
I have always been deaf. When I was a toddler I never responded to my name, I didn’t react to loud bangs or cars thundering by. For a while my parents thought I was ignorant and stubborn. One day my Grandma suggested that I might be deaf. At first my parents were apparently sceptical, it wasn’t until my Grandma smashed two mighty pans together behind my head without me flinching that they considered the possibility of my hearing to be impaired. For years I wore two hearing aids. After a while my audiologists realised that there’s no reason for me to have two when I can only hear out my right ear. Whenever I explain my disability to others, they always seem surprised. “But you can hear so well” or “I would have never have guessed that” are the usual responses. The fact of the matter is that I am entirely deaf in my left ear, I can’t hear a thing. If you shouted in that ear and covered my right ear, I wouldn’t hear you. I am also half deaf in my right ear, leaving my world substantially quieter than the average human.
Throughout primary and secondary school I was under the impression that my life would always be defined and limited by my disability. In primary school I was removed from a lot of lessons for speaking therapy, so I started secondary school in bottom sets. Throughout school I was bullied. I was bullied because I was deaf, I was bullied because my last name is Arabic, and I was bullied because I was a confident young woman. These are all prominent themes in the world of diversity. I never let this bullying bother me too much because I would remember my mother’s wise words, to always use your disability to your advantage. The bullying was only ever petty words, so it was easy to let them drift away. It wasn’t until an incident towards the end of school that I really understood the dangers and disadvantages of my hearing impairment. I didn’t hear the bullies coming, they approached me on the side I could not hear from, knowingly. The incident left me feeling incredibly vulnerable and shy and I built a lot of walls up around me, towering high to protect me. It took a long time to let those walls fall down.
Between then and now I have come a long way. Quite literally. Starting in June 2018, I ran from John O’Groats to Land’s End completely unsupported. I covered 1000 miles and it took me 40 days. I averaged a marathon every day, my longest day being 33 miles and I had only a few rest days in-between. On the 14th July, after an arduous amount of pain, sweat, blood and tears but also a momentous number of smiles, laughs and joyful moments, I became the youngest person to run across the country as well as the only hearing-impaired woman to do so. Between the most vulnerable version of me and the strongest version of me I also ran my first marathon, developed a passion for the outdoors, completed all eight routes of Snowdon in four days with some of my closest friends who I also completed the three-peak challenge three-legged with.
Rather than using my hearing impairment as a platform to bully me, people are now interested in my ability to not be defined by my disability. A few people have asked me whether my hearing impairment made my 1000 mile run more difficult and it definitely did. I spent a lot of time running along roads. I would always run towards oncoming traffic as you are meant to, but this left my only working ear to be directed towards the trees or mountains on my right. I couldn’t hear the cars behind or in front of me until they were only ten or fifteen feet away from me. A lot of drivers would beep to boost my morale, but they usually just left my heart beating extra fast because it took me by such surprise. Some of the country roads were treacherous, they were incredibly narrow with constant twists and bends, the cars would plummet along at ridiculous speeds causing me to jump into the bush every ten minutes. There were also a handful of times that I would be running along a very quiet road with no turns or traffic and I would turn around to find a car or van following me at a very slow pace. I wouldn’t have known how long the car would have been following me for but as soon as I became aware of the situation I would feel vulnerable. Luckily, they always drove onwards when I stopped at the side of the road to holler them to pass. In the times of physical and mental exhaustion I had to constantly remain aware and vigilant, I had to always remain alert of my surroundings and that is an incredibly difficult thing to do when your body and mind wants to do nothing but sleep.
Though my disability made things more difficult, it never stopped me from achieving my goal. My hearing impairment never held me back, it never limited me or made me less able. I could have let it, I could have succumbed to it or used it as an excuse to give up. But what is important in these moments when we are outside or on an adventure is to remain mentally strong. What I have learnt from my 1000 mile run and from my disability is that the only thing that will ever stop you from achieving something is your mind. If you tell yourself you can’t do something, then you never even gave yourself the chance. If you adopt a brave, courageous and positive mind-set you can do anything. To live in a more diverse world, I believe that we have to break down those walls and understand that our disability, gender or race doesn’t have to hold us back, we can use these things to our advantage and with a strong mind we can push forward, together.