2012, the prospects

2012 is looking to be a great year for projects, university and family life.

2012 will see my first year of university complete and hopefully coming out with a great grade. It has been tough going this past couple of months so I hope to have it all on track and get that all important first.

As for projects for 2012 where to start! I hope to launch a number of blogs focussing on running and fitness within the disabled community. I often forgot how lucky I am to have access to equipment and knowledge when it comes to exercise. So I plan to start a blog dedicated to making fitness accessible, from reviewing home equipment, creating audio instructions and simply workouts I hope to make fitness at home (and the gym) that little bit more accessible.

I will also be running the “Marathon Sandwich” blog that will detail the training for running the combined 52.6 miles needed to complete the sandwich (all in one go of course!). I am running this event to raise money for the SRSB which offers fabulous services to the blind. I will detail this more as time progresses.

I also have a few projects which will remain undisclosed until plans are firmed up!

As for family life, well that is always exciting. 2012 will see Graysons 2nd birthday and his first words! That is set to be a great occasion. Pretty sure there will be lots more trips to astrobound too!

RP Community

Despite being registered blind for over a decade I have never been involved with the blind community. I decided early on to try and adapt as much as I could and keep this in a constant cycle, it was only when these adaptations required the use of a cane I became involved.

My increasing involvement has seen me start to arrange a fundraising event for Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind (SRSB). While I was chatting with the event organiser she mentioned there was a RP group meeting in a few weeks and would I like to come along. Unsure of what would be involved I thought it might be interesting.

The meeting consisted of a Dr talking about possible cures. Now I must mention as he did these cures are a long way off. We are talking gene therapy, stem cell research and bionic implants. All pretty much sci-fi at this point in time. I am well aware if a cure will be found it is at least 1-2 decades away. I am fine with this if there is a cure great! I will take it, if not I will have adapted and be doing what I want regardless.

The majority of people at the meeting seemed to get a lot from a talk on possible cures, they were seeking a medical classification and cure. U moved away from this idea many years ago. I feel concentrating on adapting rather than hoping for a cure is more productive. After all if I sat at home waiting for a cure that would be a very boring life.

Due to this I didn’t particularly take much from the meeting and when asked by the organisers I mentioned this. And I was asked the question “if you could turn back the clock and make is so you never lost your sight, would you?” the answer is no. While I would happily take a cure I wouldn’t change what has happened. I am only where I am in life due to everything that has gone, losing my vision made me adapt in specific ways. Each of those adaptations led me down a new path.

The path I have found myself on currently I am very happy with, a psychology student aiming towards a career path in clinical psyhoclogy or maybe even sport to tie in with my other passion right now, running. I only began running in an effort to push the boundaries and see what I was capable of, I don’t think I would ever of challenged myself like this if I had retained my vision.

I still plan to attend the meetings and hope there will be lots of talk about adapting and moving forward. I also look forward to working with SRSB.

some days are easier than others

Some days the commute to university is a breeze, I jump on the train at Doncaster quickly find a seat and begin listening to my audiobooks. A quick walk through the meadow hall station and usually the tram is pulling in and I repeat the process jump on and listen to an audiobook.

Other days it is simply draining. People literally pushing me out of the way as we board the train and kicking my cane out of the way. Only to get to the transition to the tram and the same be repeated. Old people with mobility issues seem able to out sprint anyone when it comes to getting a seat. I was literally turning round to sit down the other day as an old person sniped it from under me!

Yesterday was a mix of the two, the journey to university was incredibly easy and I managed to listen to a few good chapters and even arrived at university a few minutes early. Just in time to bump into an old friend from college.

The journey home however was awful, I was pushed out of the way as I left the tram and barged about entering the terminal. Not a fun time, no worries I thought the train is usually empty at this time. I was wrong, the train has never been so full, it was literally standing room only. Then the unusual happened, someone offered me their seat, I felt so bad I refused and carried on walking down the train. After being shouted at to keep moving by the ticket checker (do they have a job title?) someone else offered me their seat and I relented. Ahhh a seat and relative safety.

I phoned Sian and asked her to meet me on the platform so we could shoot off. I popped off the train and Sian was no where to be found, I rang a few times and no answer. Eventually I got through and she assured me we were on the same platform, we didn’t appear to be so we met in the underpass. Sian assured me we were on the same platform as we met in the underpass so no idea why we couldn’t find each other.

So basically to sum it up, sometimes the commute is a pain but every time I think everyone is just plan rude someone offers to help or gives up their seat.

Recording audio for ASICS

I recorded a mini documentary and a TV commercial about myself for ASICS a few months ago. Recently I received an email asking me to pop to a recording studio to record some audio. I imagined I had messed up some of what I had spoke about and needed it re recorded.

Today I received my “script”, not I say script. It was more a transcription of what I had said during conversations I had with the film crew (I had a mic on all day). Reading through my script I thought to myself; I really can’t remember saying this? It sounds way to scripted? Would I have been able to come up with these lines in conversation?

When I arrived at the studio and was escorted into my little booth all my questions were answers. I had indeed said all those lines as they played an audio track of me saying them! The next 90 minutes consisted of 70+ takes of me repeating the lines of conversation I had delivered on the day.

Its a funny thing when you have to repeat lines again and again. The word level slowly turned into the word eleven, I kept dropping words and adding words. I don’t think I have a career as a voice over artist thats for sure!

The process in the end turned out to be really fun, chatting to the agency recording the audio and hearing which versions of my lines sounded the best. I must say hear that I hate the sound of my own voice, I refuse to listen to any interviews or recordings I create. I just can’t do it! But after a while today even I thought the audio track was beginning to sound good.

I can’t wait for the finished article, it has been a great privilege to shoot a TV commercial it really is something to tick of the life achievements list.

Adapting to university

When I began the process of applying for university I retained enough vision to be able to read. This was a great plus during college as it allowed me to read through the required textbooks and complete my work easily.

I had hoped my vision would stay stable during my 3 years of university. Unfortunately it didn’t even last 3 weeks. Already I am having to totally change the way I learned and move the vast majority of my learning to audio.

This change is huge, for the past 20 years I have been used to learning through visual based means, now I am forced to rely on auditory techniques. This is a difficult transition as a new learning style at the same time I begin to study at a new level are two great challenges to run simultaneously. This isn’t even taking into account getting the textbooks into an accessible format.

If I thought obtaining textbooks digitally was difficult obtaining them in an audio format is taking it to the next level. Again thankfully my previous career in IT is really helping out and I am able to convert any book to audio once I have a digital copy. But it makes me wonder what people without a reasonable level of computer savvy do.

In this day and age of a digital society it still boggles my mind to find content is difficult to get in the format the end user actually needs. If I can do it with an iMac and some free software publishers can certainly do it.

In an effort to ease the time burden on myself I have a library assistant who can convert from paper to digital. For this I am incredibly thankful but it still means there is a delay to accessing the information I need. People blessed with vision have the option of doing to the library and pulling out and book they need and flicking through the pages. The only delay being the time to search for the book. I at best have a 3-4 day delay on accessing any information I need.

So again publishers: stop making excuses and sort it out

A New Challenge

Even though university is keeping me incredibly busy I have began to think about a new running challenge. The Championship next year is a definite but I now feel the need to find something else.

I think this comes down to now realising the 100 mile run is definitely possible. With my limited training this year I was able to make it 83 miles, so how hard can that next 17 be? With another 8 months of training I am hoping not to hard.

So I have begun to think about a multi day event. I don’t really want to announce my plans yet as they are far from confirmed. I am going to email a few people and see if I can even afford to do a multi day event.

But the sheer thought of planning for my next big challenge is beginning to excite.

Its been a while….

The blog has been quiet for a while but rather than a lack of things to blog about I have just been too busy.

Adjusting to university has been a lot harder than I had anticipated. With the commute to university being the first time I have used my long cane it has been taking its toll. I perhaps rather wrongly assumed people would be forgiving of me using the cane and be polite. This turned out to be wrong.

Today for example as I boarded the tram someone clean kicked my cane out from me. No apology they just looked at me and pushed by me. This unfortunately happens on the majority of commutes. On the flip side about once a week someone is actually helpful and assists me with something.

With the rush hour commute being difficult I decided to make a few changes to my timetable to ease the process. Thankfully i didn’t enjoy the module I dropped to ease the commute. So I suppose it did all work out for the best.

While I begin to get my studies under control I have been thinking about next years ultra running. I am definitely entering the UltraRace Championship which will see me return to the Cotswold 100 amongst many other races (90 miles in Jan I best get training!) I have begun to think about other challenges.

I have never been fond of the multi day event but the past few weeks have been thinking about how far I could run in a week. 210 miles seems perfect achievable so could I run 280? push it to 300? I have a few destinations in mind and some interesting point-to-point runs. Just need some funding! (or sponsorship!)

Around The Corner

University looms just around the corner; I am still a little anxious about starting university there are just so many unknowns. One of the biggest for me is the commute.

Historically I would adjust the commute so it was absolutely minimal. In the early days when I worked retail, I would catch the bus just after or at its terminal so the bus was empty. This would make it very easy to find a seat and negate a lot of the issues with transport. Fast forward a few years and jobs and I lived literally next door to where I worked, totally removing the commute.

My commute now consists of, being dropped off at the train station, a train then a tram. The journey to university is relatively simple, my wife points out the right train and I board it. Finding a seat is still an issue but I can stand if I must, The tram journey is also very easy, I board the tram and the terminal and there are only two trams, one takes me to the right destination, the other relatively close. So if I go wrong here no big problem.

The issues arise on the way home, I can’t see the name on the tram so I have no idea if I board the right one, the same goes for the train. So I am forced to rely on asking any bystanders if they know where the next train or tram goes. Not the most ideal situation but needs must.

I am also conscious of moving around the campus and the studying itself. Having never studied at this level before I am unsure of the adaptations I will have to make to succeed along the way. All seems a little ad-hoc at the minute, I am confident I will be settled in and know what I am doing within a few weeks. After all everyone at university is in the same boat, its somewhere new and scary!

I also have an ultra coming up in a few weeks, so best start upping the miles. Nothing like adding to the pressure!


The past year my life has changed dramatically. Perhaps the most important I became a father. In an effort to make my life challenging I also decided to start a new career path and begin training to become an ultra endurance athlete. I began all of these new ventures in the same week; just to compound the pressure!

Now nearly a year later I have begun to reflect on where I am and how the public image I have created is perceived. My public image is created around the fact I am a blind ultra runner and to a further extent the fact I train solo outdoors. As I begin to reflect on this public image I am a little uneasy.

What image am I creating of a disabled person? Am I utilising my disability as a PR stunt?

It is these two questions that are currently making me think. When I began my journey to compete at the ultra distance I had never thought about the public discovering what I was doing. So when did that change?

It all changed when I realised how expensive training for an ultra had become and I needed to reach out to companies for support. This is where I made the choice to market myself as a blind ultra runner. I am now wondering how the public at large perceives this. I hope people don’t perceive me as constantly marketing myself on my disability in an effort to gain support.

It is such a fine line to walk; I don’t think I can escape the moniker of a blind ultra runner or if I even want to. I hope the message that does come across is the ability to adapt. That’s my core belief and the reason I own this domain name. I constantly adapt to overcome barriers and that is the message I really want to project.

I think right now I am just a little confused about the entire situation but that could be related to the opportunities I have been granted. In the past year I have appeared in magazines, newspapers, live television, international television, books and I now have a TV commercial about my running. It is difficult to process how far I have come in such a short space of time.

Perhaps the uncertainty is a good thing, as I will constantly remain thankful for the opportunities I have been given. This post has perhaps been my most scattered in a while but it is basically how I feel about the situation. I am becoming far more conscious of how I project myself and being careful of the message I carry.

However perception is always down to the individual, so knowing how people perceive my story and process it will always be personal to them. The one thing I will always be vigilant of is to not label myself beyond the boundaries of who I am. I am blind, I am an ultra runner, I am a father. Any other labels attached to myself is down to the individual.


Today during cane training I was finally awarded my own long cane. Before you can be presented with a cane you have to show the ability to navigate safely as well as know a few key movements of the cane.

In reality I mastered the cane a few weeks ago but have been a little to busy to meet up and finalise the process. Today we hit a few of the routes I plan to use when commuting to university as well as practicing a few road crossings.

Crossing the road is always dangerous when blind as frankly there are too many crazy drivers! But we headed to a busy road instead of picking the quiet areas so I got a feel of what it is really like rather than spending my time crossing easy roads.

This was also a great opportunity to try different tips for the cane. I have decided to use the rollerball tip, which is basically exactly what its namesake implies. An enormous rollerball. It glides over surfaces far easier and snags less, making walking on rough surfaces such as paving slabs easier.

Today was also a great change to try out some speaking alarm clocks and wristwatches. Now the watch I actually want is a black faced TW Steel but I cant afford it right now. Money is constrained so I may end up with a cheap ugly RNIB watch. Not looking forward to that but needs must.