BATTLING Simon Wheatcroft is beating blindness to tackle a 100-mile challenge of a lifetime to save the sight of hundreds of children.
The 29-year-old former project manager at Rossington All Saints School is using global positioning apps on his mobile phone to get through his road training alone in Doncaster, even though he cannot see where he going.
And by the time he has completed the 100-mile ‘Cotswolds 100’ ultra-marathon this month, he is hoping to be on his way to raising £5,000 for the charity SightSavers which operates to save the vision of children in developing countries.
Then he plans to run the notorious 135-mile Badwater race across Death Valley in America, to raise even more cash for charity.
Simon, from Elm Close, Rossington, has the degenerative condition retinitis pigmentosa, which has seen his eyesight deteriorate to the point he cannot now see people standing in front of him in a room.
But he has taken to distance running despite his disability and trains 17 hours a week pounding a quiet stretch of road.
Simon said: “I train alone on a side road, but I have spent a long time memorising the route. Yet if you asked me to walk around Rossington village, I couldn’t do it.
“I’m on the waiting list for a guide dog, but I have not got one yet. It may seem strange that I can run, but I have learned the route very well.
“I run on the road, because cars will move if they see me, whereas pedestrians and cyclists on the pavement get upset if you invade their personal space and think I should move.
“There was one occasion when a cyclist on the pavement started shouting at me for nearly running into him.
“My mobile phone has an app that gives distance markers to roads and junctions that me a signal I can hear which gave me extra confidence when I first started.”
He admits that due to litter, random objects, and his mind wandering, he often trips or runs into posts.
Simon has some limited sight. But he will have 10 runners as guides on June 26, when he runs his first ultramarathon.
Two of those will be tethered to him during the night sections of the run. During the day he plans to follow by hearing, listening to the guide runner. Each of the guides will run with him for 10 miles.
The challenge will take a figure of eight route through the Cotswolds, along roads with traffic throughout the race.
Simon has been registered blind since the age of 17, but his vision has worsened since then.
He said: “Retinitis pigmentosa means I have been losing my central vision, my periperal vision, have night blindness, and I have started losing colour vision. I am in the late stages.”
Simon wants to help SightSavers because of his own experience with blindness. The charity to cure and prevent blindness in developing countries.
He believes his fundraising could restore the sight of 1,000 people.
He added: “You can’t cure my blindness, but you can other types of blindness. If I can help someone’s vision be restored I will be over the moon because I know from experience it would mean the world to them.”
n Log onto www.blind100.com to sponsor Simon.