Darren Carruthers – An Athlete’s Journey
Darren is a young man for whom sport has made a massive difference to his enjoyment and quality of life.
Darren started his school journey through the mainstream system. He struggled there with most aspects of school, had no friends, low self-esteem, and rock-bottom confidence. Darren’s mum, Donna, recalls one of Darren’s birthday parties during this time. Due to Darren’s classmates’ rejection to invites, Donna had to ensure there were sufficient family members present to celebrate Darren’s special day.
In Primary 7 Darren moved to Merkland School, which educates children and young people with additional support needs. One of the teachers there, Jane Keys, encouraged Darren to try athletics, so he gave it a go. He didn’t enjoy it very much at first, but with Jane’s encouragement, he grew to love the challenge and being part of the school running club. Darren’s love for running increased and he started to be involved in every event he could. He entered his first Cross Country in Kirkintilloch and despite being 31st, Kirkie Olympians, a mainstream club, asked him to run with them. From here Darren tried a few athletics clubs and became involved in the competitive scene. He began to make friends through the clubs and meeting other young athletes like himself at the competitions.
In third year Darren returned to mainstream education almost unrecognisable from the person he had been when he left. With his new-found confidence, he was able to attend Bearsden Academy, making friends at the Language and Communications Base there, and succeeded in gaining his Nat 4 and 5 in PE. He now has a social group who hang out, go to the cinema and generally enjoy being with each other.
When asked what his favourite part of being involved with running was – ‘Competing and winning’!
Darren now trains and runs with two Glasgow Disability Sport clubs, Victoria Park Athletics and Red Star Athletics. Donna describes these as his ‘second homes’. He competes at National and International level at Scottish Disability Sport and Special Olympics competitions, and occasionally travels down South to compete in English competitions in order to keep at the top of his game.
Darren has started to do a little bit of coaching and he can see that might be something he would want to be involved in at a later date, but for now he is happier to be running.
Although Cross Country is one of his favourite sports, through being introduced to sports, Darren now enjoys cycling (outside and at the velodrome), and has recently developed an interest in Triathlon.
From mum Donna’s perspective, she says Sport has given Darren new life. She says it has been so good to see him grow in confidence, make friends and achieve in the areas he chooses to be involved in.
Finally, Darren was asked what advice he would give to anyone who was not sure if sport was for them, or who were a bit hesitant about getting involved.
His response: ‘Just do it!!’