We recently received this note from Simon Wheatcroft in the UK. I think you’ll agree that his story is both amazing and inspirational!
Over a decade ago I was registered blind. I lost my vision through a degenerative disorder called Retinitis Pigmentosa. For the past 6 years I trained exclusively with assistance, be it a guide runner for running or someone at the gym.
Last year my guide runner moved to another city so I was left alone.
Without the money to buy a treadmill or even afford a gym membership I thought my running career had come to an end. For a while I wondered what I could do until one day I just decided to head out on my own.
I began by running up and down a football pitch by positioning myself between the goal posts and using audio GPS to get a distance marker. I figured I wouldn’t run into anything. This didn’t pan out very well as dog walkers seemed to love to walk into me.
While I had my guide runner we had always run the same route, so I wondered if I would be able to run that route alone. I began by training on a closed road that was on the edge of the small route. I was using RunKeeper audio cues to aid with distance and pace. I would run this small .15 mile road up and down, up and down. Until one day I plucked up the courage to leave the road and attempt the old route.
Over time I added a little bit more of the route, first walking it to learn the curbs bumps and pole placements. I would walk into a post or fall down a ditch quite regularly in the early parts of learning the route. But after 4 months of practice I knew the route.
I was able to tell where I was through the camber of the pavements or identifying the different foot strikes to give an indication of my location on the pavement. I paired this with the audio cues on RunKeeper to get distance markers. I am still able to perceive light so I am able to identify particular contrasting marks on the floor, such as a yellow line indicating to turn and so on.
So after months of practicing I now run alone. To set myself a true challenge I am now training to compete in ultramarathon events. My goal is to hold the record for a blind runner at BadWater and Comrades as well as any other ultras I can afford to attend. This summer I will be competing in my first ultra race: The Cotswolds 100.
– Simon Wheatcroft
Simon sent us a video he shot while on a run. He held his phone and talked about how he knows all the different sections. It’s a little tough to watch — in part from the jumpy camera (he’s running) but mostly because I was on edge every time he came to a corner (he’s running BLIND).
Simon is looking for pacers for the Cotswolds 100 on June 24-25, 2011. If you’re in the UK and can run 10+ miles at a pace of around 11 min/mile on trails, he’d love to hear from you!
You can learn more about Simon on his blog, Adapting to Going Blind.