Blind disability workforce coordinator makes history in epic 22-kilometre ultra-trail run

Kate Murdoch is completely blind and works as WSLHD’s disability workforce coordinator.

Kate Murdoch jokes she’s more comfortable on water than land, but the former Paralympic athlete and disability workforce coordinator at Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) is clearly no slouch wherever she competes.

She recently made history as the first-of-two vision-impaired athletes to complete the UTA22 – a 22-kilometre race through the Blue Mountains, one of Australia’s hardest trail running courses, incorporating 5,000 steps among other challenges.

Kate is completely blind and managed the course with the assistance of her partner – and fellow WSLHD employee – John Fox and personal trainer Shane McIntyre.

She completed the course in the impressive time of five hours and 15 minutes, describing it as “an amazing experience”.

“This was the first time that any vision impaired athletes have registered to compete, and so it was extra-extraordinary to have two blind women enter and successfully complete the event,” Kate said.

“We were worried about not making the cut-off time, and anything past the 10km point was just a bonus. In the end I was amazed by the time. I thought our watches were broken a few times along the way!

I’m hooked now, without a doubt. I’d like to do it again.”

Kate has been working with WSLHD for 13 years during which time she’s also represented Australia at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio and the 2014 FISA World Rowing Championships.

She made the difficult decision to retire from rowing last year after picking up an injury, despite being in the form of her life in the lead-up to the postponed 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.

Her day job is focused on helping our health district increase its recruitment of people with a disability, as well as supporting employees with a disability.

Kate and her guide dog Wylie.

Her guide dog Wylie allows her to navigate the 90-minute commute from her home in the Blue Mountains to her office in the Cumberland campus.

Everyone has abilities. It doesn’t matter who you are, everyone has strengths and weaknesses,” Kate said.

Kate on the course with her personal trainer Shane McIntyre.

“The definition of disability has evolved over time. I think a lot of people naturally think of someone who’s blind or in a wheelchair, but it’s actually much more than that. It can include mental health, arthritis, and people on the autism spectrum – there’s a whole lot of different areas that we don’t naturally think about.

“My role is to bring a bit more knowledge and awareness around how do we help each other as humans.

“I try not to think about so much the disability aspect, it’s just, ‘how do we support you?’ And I love being a part of making a difference to somebody.

“People with a disability bring a unique perspective to their role. If we’ve got a diverse workforce that represents our community, we can understand our patients better and find new ways to help them. Being part of that is so rewarding to me.”

See more Kate’s history-making UTA22 on Fox Sports here.

To learn more about disability support and employment opportunities with WSLHD, email Kate at Kate.Murdoch@health.nsw.gov.au.