Deaf Life6th July 2014

Mike Hawthorne, Sense and the London Marathon

Generous Deaf gymnast champion runs for charity and supports deaf life

by Sarah Lawrence

Despite taking up running only recently, Mike Hawthorne from Billericay in Essex completed the 2014 London Marathon, raising much needed money for the deafblind charity Sense. Now in his 50’s, Mike was born Deaf which is believed to be as a result of his mother having Chicken Poxs when she was pregnant.

A keen supporter of Sense, Mike was brought up in Basildon attending the Woodford Nursery and Secondary School. Like myself, Mike was taught orally with sign language prohibited by the Headmaster and his Headmistress wife both of whom he regarded as being very cruel. Consequently, Mike was relieved to leave school and then learned to use Sign Supported English at Romford Deaf Club, before learning British Sign Language in 1994 when he moved to London.

Getting a job as a fitter on leaving school in a factory in Basildon, Mike was doing work that he did not enjoy. It took ten years to find something more enjoyable when he secured the position of General Assistant and gymnastics/trampoline coach at a newly built sports centre in Pitsea, a position that allowed him to use his passion for gymnastics to teach both children and adults. An accomplished gymnast, Mike was the first Deaf person to win the British Veterans Gymnastics Championships in 1987.

A late convert to running, Mike only started in July 2013 when Sense offered him a place at the 2014 London Marathon. He had previously wanted to enter the race for the previous two years but was unsuccessful in getting a place in 2012 and rehearsals for his involvement in the opening ceremony of the Olympic games in London forced him to give up on his place in 2013.

Disappointed, Mike nevertheless describes his involvement with the Olympic Games as, “one of the best experiences of my life”, and celebrated his involvement by getting a tattoo of the Olympic rings on his right arm. Still keen to run the London Marathon, Mike was delighted to be offered a place in the 2014 race by the Sense Charity, starting his training in July 2013.

Before moving to London in 1994, Mike had been one of only a handful of deaf people in his locality. The move to London opened up a much wider group of deaf people, something which brought happiness to his life, as well as the opportunity to learn British Sign Language which he jumped at. Living in London, Mike began his running in the beautiful Highbury Park where he had a one mile track to gauge the distance he was running. However, it was not a completely smooth progression as he tore a calf muscle in November requiring rest and physiotherapy until January when he started running again.

Keen to run for Sense, Mike also took inspiration from the loss of his dog Elf who was put to sleep in his arms in the August, only months after he had lost Elf’s mother too, “I promised them that I would get the London Marathon medal for completing the race,” Mike told me, and when he completed the race in 6 hours and 50 minutes despite picking up an injury just before race day, he delivered on that pledge.

An active figure in the Deaf community within London, Mike is a Volunteer Team Leader for Friday’s 50+ Club in Green Lane, where he organises social events for Deaf people. A generous, giving man, Mike is an unassuming ambassador within the deaf community, supporting Sense in their work helping people who are deafblind, recognising the additional problems they face.

Always on the look out for new challenges, I look forward to seeing what Mike gets up to next. If you attend a social event with him, please but him a drink for him from me.

Article by Sarah Lawrence

posted in Community / Deaf Life

6th July 2014