Blind athlete’s marathon run is toughest test

Simon Wheatcroft. Photo: Harry Page.
Simon Wheatcroft. Photo: Harry Page.
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BLIND long distance runner Simon Wheatcroft will rely on the kindness of strangers when he takes on one of his toughest challenges yet.

The 32-year-old from Rossington, Doncaster is already well versed in trail and road running, some of which he does solo, but he has yet to do his first marathon.

When he competes in this year’s New York marathon on November 2 he will already be a little sore having completed, if all goes well, a nine-day, 230-mile run from Boston to New York.

And to make the task even tougher than it already is, he will be relying on social media not only to find sighted runners to help guide him but also to find him a bed for the night.

He admitted that the idea of relying on strangers to help out might sound “ludicrous” but he has every faith that people will come forward.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” he told The Yorkshire Post.

“The point of these adventures is that they are supposed to be hard and difficult. There will come a time (on the run) when I will start to think that I can’t carry on - that is the opportunity to stand back up and keep going and prove it’s possible. I’m looking forward to the fact it’s difficult, it’s an opportunity to push on and keep going.”

First and foremost it is a test of his mental and physical toughness but it’s also a test of the generosity of Americans and people he has yet to meet.

Mr Wheatcroft, who went blind at 17 as a result of a degenerative eye disease, often runs solo but only after he has memorized the route using smartphone app RunKeeper, which helps him with pace and distance.

For the Boston run he will be relying on volunteer guides and his friend and fellow runner Neil Bacon.

“I will be using social media to find guide runners, who will run anything from one mile to 10 miles with me. I will aim to run 25 miles a day.”

The route he is taking from Boston is on minor roads and tracks and is well used by cyclists and runners.

“It’s a renowned way to cycle from Boston to New York, to make it as safe as possible. I could have gone for a shorter route but it would have been far more dangerous.”

As well as raising money for Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind he’s also raising the profile of what can be achieved using publicity and the power of social media.

The website Airbnb, which allows people to rent out lodging, is sponsoring him and is relying on users to find him a bed for the night.

Mr Wheatcroft, who has just graduated from Sheffield University and is looking for employment, is hoping his two sons will see him cross the finishing line.

Grayson, four, already has his passport but one-year-old Franklin’s has yet to arrived in the post.

“I hope to cross the finishing line with both sons.”