Meet the Deaf Ultra Racer Fuelled By Music
South African runner Tim Stones has been deaf since birth, and yet Stones learned to play the piano and sing in the choir when he was a child. Today, with the help of hearing aids and a cochlear implant, he composes music and can play by ear. He has also completed 25 marathons and 25 ultras, all without being able to hear the starting gun, the crowds, or the runners around him. That might seem to make for a bleak race, but Stones insists that it gives him room to hear his own thoughts, and that he runs to a never-ending stream of internal tunes. Here, Stones, 42, discusses how music became one of the greatest forces for good in his running life.
RW: Why did you start running?
TS: I went for my first proper run at the age of 11 or 12, on the spur of the moment, initially to stamp the anger I felt through my feet. I was on my high school cross-country team. In 1999, when I was 20, I ran my first marathon, quickly followed by my first 100km race. Recently, I completed my 50th marathon or ultra race. Running has become my primary form of emotional release. It is how I process life and make peace with it.
RW: How do you experience your runs?
TS: I run without my hearing devices on, as I find the cacophony of sounds overwhelming when I am feeling the rhythm of my feet. Silence helps me keep my rhythm and find my pace. As my vision is also compromised [Stones’ vision deteriorated in recent years to the point that he can’t drive], I have to focus intensely on the actual act of running, to avoid obstructions and potential mishaps the best I can.