Tuesday, 20 December 2011

20 12 11 - RP and Running - Truly Inspiring Blind Athlete

Below is a really inspiring Guest Post by Simon a blind Extreme Distance Runner so I am going to run it again Today on the Doodle.

Sea Bear 17/12/11

Special Guest Blog todays by Simon Wheatcroft, Simon has the Same degenerative eye condition as me Retinitis Pigmentosa. Receiving his story today in my Face book inbox really cheered me up, The more people I talk to with the more inspired and moved I am to keep doing the things I do.

Frank 07-11-11

Simon Wheatcroft's Guest Blog

RP and running

Having dealt with the issues surrounding RP from my early childhood to the present day was a difficult journey at first. When first diagnosed I wasn’t sure what the future would hold, what would I be capable of? What would I be able to see by the time I was 30? I seemed to have many questions and no idea how to manage the answers.

As I grew older I became more comfortable with my impending sight loss and carried on with my life. I drifted through college and found my way into a career in IT. After 10 years of career advancement I found myself in the unfortunate position of being made redundant. This gave me a great opportunity to assess my direction in life.

I decided it was time to truly test what I was capable of. I embarked on a new career and returned to college to gain the relevant qualification to attend university. I attended a regular college rather than a college that was targeted at the visually impaired. I believed it was important for me to adapt as well as the college in order to achieve personal goals.

Around the same time I started college I wanted to challenge myself physically. The biggest issue I had been having over the past few months was with my mobility. Moving around unaided had become incredibly difficult. So I wanted to find something that would challenge my mobility and push me mentally and physically.

I decided to start running, unable to afford a gym membership or a treadmill I only had one option: run outside. This was made slightly more complicated by the fact I didn’t have a guide runner. So despite being registered blind for over a decade I thought I would give running alone a try. I started by running on a football pitch; I would position myself between the goal posts and run to the other side of the pitch. I tracked my position using audio based GPS and ran up and down the field.

This proved very limiting and hazardous, so I thought I could translate the skills I had learnt on the fields to the road. I found myself a closed road and began to run up and down the road. Using audio GPS it was easy to track my location and pacing so began to build up the miles. After mastering the techniques I explored the local roads and began the transition to running on the open road alone. After memorizing a 2-mile route through the feel underfoot, audio GPS signals and using my ability to pick out certain visual elements such as a bus stop, I wanted to set myself a challenge.

I decided to train to run at the ultra distance, which is any distance above and beyond 26 miles. For my first race I chose to run a 100-mile hilly route in the Cotswolds. I aimed for 100 miles but only completed 83. I ran till I couldn’t stand and with non-functioning legs I was carried off the course. Since then I have completed other races including ultras and still continue to train outdoors alone.

Through running I was able to redefine my mental and physical limits. I achieved something people perceived impossible. When I thought about losing my vision as a child I never believed once blind I would learn to run alone and compete in one of the hardest running disciplines. Not only do I run at the ultra distance I compete against sighted people and beat them. Proving to myself and hopefully others that, a disability does not define what we can do. Those limits are still determined by what we believe we can do.

- Simon Wheatcroft

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