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How I got into running as a visually impaired person

A bit about how I got into running

I started to get a real feel for running when I was 11, doing 100m sprints towards my shouting coach gave me a real sense of freedom.

I had ran on and off since then, but, it was not knowing where to really start and, what club would take on someone that was totally blind.

However in 2013 I managed to get in touch with a club called the Sleaford town runners. After a few emails between myself and the chairman, he contacted me by phone and introduced himself as Shaun Louth.

I explained that I was totally blind and asked would this be a problem and, in a laid back kind of tone he said “Nah, that’s not a problem at all.”

So, there my running journey started!

I started by barely running 5 minutes before wanting to walk. A chap called Paul Freemantal decided it was time to try for my first mile. One week he was guiding me and he said to me, “Right, I want you to concentrate on your breathing, if you feel you need to walk, focus on something else.” So off we went sure enough after about 5 minutes something was telling me I needed to walk. He could sense this and I just focused on what I could hear round me and that feeling gradually eased. After what seemed a while, he said, “Guess what? you’ve done a mile!” I was absolutely delighted; I’d achieved a small step on the running ladder.
From there I have joined a local running club and as and when I can do events (Guide dependant) I will, my marathon PB is 4:45. I have also started doing Triathlons with the help of Mike Tozer and Paul Davidson.

My proudest Running Moment

I have to say that my proudest running moment was when I had completed my first ever marathon. This was a Marathon called the Kent road runner Marathon.

It consisted of 18 Laps of a 1.8-mile cycle track. It sounds easy when you put it in those kinds of terms doesn’t it? But it was anything but!
There was a whacking hill about half way round and it seemed that each lap was just getting harder than the last.

After about the eighteenth mile I suddenly began to feel very light headed and it crossed my mind that I might have to pull out of the race. I turned to my guide and voiced my concerns. He asked me, “You’re going to finish this race, aren’t you?”
I really wasn’t sure at the time I have to say so we needed to think very quickly about what we were going to do. As luck would have it there was a table that had shot blocks, jelly babies, crisps and other things just so that you could get fuel of some kind inside you. We decided to run a lap, walk a lap run a lap and take on shot blocks and water.
By the time we had done this sequence a few times I was actually starting to run again more than walk. After what seemed like an age, it was the last lap!

That was it, I was off! Even running up the hill half way round the track, then we were nearing the finish and all of a sudden I heard this massive wall of sound! The crowd was so loud, cheering me as I crossed the finish line.
I can remember saying, I’ve done it! I’ve done it! I’ve done it!
the atmosphere was just electric and yes, I was in tears which I’m not a ashamed to admit at all.

I’ve done 5 marathons to date but the Kent road runner was for me certainly the hardest but proudest moments. Probably because it was my first marathon and I nearly considered pulling out and boy, I’m just so glad that I didn’t.

Life outside of Running

I do have other little hobbies outside of running which may surprise you.

I love amateur Radio. This is where you use Shortwave (HF) to talk to people all round the world on different wavebands and frequencies. You can also use VHF bands to talk locally, rather like CB radio if anyone remembers that when it was of the age.

I also enjoy Sailing from time to time, I’ve managed to take part in a few races here and there. In 2000, I was selected to take part in something called the Access National Championships in Australia, which was a real honour for the club at the time.

Where do I go from here…

I will keep training on my new treadmill, and running in events as much as I can. I will keep doing my Triathlons with my team and I am also practicing swimming without a tether.
My goal is to do a 24 hour challenge at some point, but I will need to find a guide who will do it with me!

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Mark Ellis
Mark Ellis
Blind Marathon and Track runner. Triathlete. Dabbling in untethered running and swimming. Ambition to complete 24hr event.

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