How new technology will help blind runner from Doncaster to run New York Marathon solo

Blind ultramarathon runner Simon Wheatcroft.
Blind ultramarathon runner Simon Wheatcroft.

A blind ultramarathon runner from Yorkshire will compete solo in the New York Marathon without a guide and will instead be wholly reliant on technology.

Simon Wheatcroft, 35, from Rossington, Doncaster, will be using a navigation device that he has helped develop in collaboration with tech designers in the US.

The British athlete - who lost his sight from a degenerative eye disease in his teens - has spent the last seven years experimenting with technology to enable him and other visually impaired people to navigate independently.

The Wayband device guides people to a destination using vibration rather than audio alerts.

It will enable Mr Wheatcroft to avoid the 50,000 other runners in his path in New York on November 5.

This will not be his first marathon in the city, but previously he has relied on "buddy" runners and a basic smartphone navigation app.

Mr Wheatcroft said: "This will be my third New York marathon, but undoubtedly my greatest challenge and most significant run to date.

"Technology has enabled me to strive for the impossible. I want to continue using it to push the boundaries of what I am capable of achieving - and to ensure technologies exist that can assist everybody, whether they're running a marathon or simply walking through their home town.

"It is through technology we can gain more independence. It is a great leveller."

Due to New York's famous skyscrapers, Mr Wheatcroft expects GPS to drop out on his device but has taken this into account in his training.

He said the goal is for blind people to use the device in their everyday lives walking on the streets, and not just remain something used by an athlete in a sporting event.

Mr Wheatcroft said the device has an "unbelievable" level of accuracy, adding that it is a "totally new way to navigate" and will "expand people's possibilities".

The device is expected to cost 300 US dollars (£226).