Saturday 19 January 2019

Alanna (7) set for marathon, all thanks to hero dad Keith

Keith Russell takes Alanna for a spin in her wheelchair
Keith Russell takes Alanna for a spin in her wheelchair

Seven-year-old Alanna will become the youngest participant in this year's Dublin Marathon when she hits the road with her proud dad.

Keith Russell (34) will push Alanna along the entire length of the 26.2-mile course in her wheelchair.

Alanna has spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy and does not have the use of her arms or legs and cannot talk.

"But she is a very outgoing young girl and loves to meet new people," Keith told the Herald.

Last year Keith and his wife Ruth raised €70,000 for an extension to their house to make it more accessible for Alanna.

Keith said they were "overwhelmed" by the support they have received from the community.

"A friend of ours ran the marathon for us that time, and that sort of made me think about running this one with Alanna," he said.

"We are running under the banner of Team Alanna on Facebook and hope to raise enough money to supply Alanna's respite centre with a new wheelchair-accessible bus.


"Alanna will effectively become the youngest ever participant in October's marathon."

Keith is not too worried about the marathon because he and Alanna have done a number of parkruns.

Alanna has even got a new special running wheelchair with three wheels to help them along their way.

"It is my first time doing the marathon but I'm training every week and have already done a 13-mile run," said Keith.

The Russell family will be hoping for the same level of support they received last year.

Keith said it can be "frustrating" watching Alanna struggle with her condition.

"You go through every emotion, but you just have to be strong to be there for her every step of the way," he said. "Communication can be frustrating for her and she uses vocals by screaming as she tries to talk to us."

Keith is hoping to raise €50,000 for The Meadows Children's Respite Centre in Navan.

People can find the gofundme page on the Team Alanna Facebook site.

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