On Sunday 24th April 2016, I will be running 26.2 miles, exactly 26.2 months after going totally blind.
My name is Nathan Edge, 21 from Mansfield Nottinghamshire, and I’m a blind runner.
First of all, allow me to tell you briefly how in February 2014, I was thrown in to complete darkness! It all began when I was just 6 years old., I was diagnosed with Uveitis which was a rare condition where you lose sight due to inflammation at the back of the eyes. Incredibly this originated from an unlikely source as the inflammation came from having severe arthritis in the knee a year earlier. Yes you read that right… the inflammation from the knee travelled to the back of my eyes and left me with 20% vision in my right eye and 15% in my left. If you’re not a doctor you’d find that pretty hard to believe right?
My sight deterioration was eventually controlled with medication and the vision stabilised at that percentage for most of my childhood, however as I turned 18 years old, out of absolutely no where my sight started to deteriorate once again. Then in February 2014, aged just 19, I was thrown in to complete darkness over night. I woke up on a Saturday morning and could see nothing, not even light! As you can probably imagine, this was devastating for myself and my family and yes, it was tough to deal with however I regard myself as quite fortunate as 4 months prior to this, I qualified with my guide dog Hudson.
2014 was no doubt the biggest year of my life. It began in the worst way imaginable, however thanks to Guide Dogs and thanks to Hudson, I can now look back (not literally) and say that actually losing that sight has been the best thing that has happened to me. Eventually I was able to realise that there is still life after sight loss and just because I couldn’t see, it still shouldn’t hold me back from doing the things I want to do. This is why on Sunday 24th April 2016 I will be running the London marathon with my guide runner Pete Jones-Hall.
Running London will no doubt be my biggest challenge yet, or possibly even the biggest challenge I will ever do, as I will be up against both my disabilities. There’s the obvious problem that I can’t see where I’m going but I also still have the Arthritis to contend with. But I have my determination and I have my motivation as I will be running for the charity that turned my life around… Guide Dogs.
One of the hardest things to deal with when losing my sight was the fact that I could no longer do the hobbies that were a big part of my life and running was one of them. Each day would pass by and my frustration just grew and grew. It was so difficult knowing that I couldn’t just grab my running trainers, head out that front door and enjoy that feeling you get when you’re out there running. Running had just become another thing added to the list of something I could no longer do. However with everything else, I was determined to find a way.
This is where Guide Dogs were there for me yet again. Shortly after contacting them after hearing about their My Guide Service, they were able to partner me up with my first volunteer Barry. Barry had volunteered to spare a couple of hours of his week to guide me around the gym from machine to machine and no doubt save me the embarrassment of sitting on some strangers lap. I had my guide dog Hudson to get me to and from the gym and Barry to guide inside, perfect! I was able to get started with getting some fitness back and more importantly for me at the time, I could get rid of the unwanted weight the medication had forced upon me. Meanwhile Guide Dogs were working hard to find a solution for my main ambition which was to be able to run again in the great outdoors. Eventually thanks to the help of England Athletics and their Guide Running workshop, Guide Dogs found just the person.. Pete.
Pete and I started running together in October 2014 with just a few short simple runs of a couple of miles whilst we got used to running together and more importantly, so I could adjust to running in complete darkness. Essentially I had to put 110% trust in Pete. Eventually our confidence was increasing and we were ready to move to the next step up. By the new year we were running in our local Parkrun at Mansfield which was a brand new experience for us as we had many turns and lots of people to contend with however it was no problem at all. After building up my fitness and adjusting to the new running conditions, we were ready to start entering races with our first one against a giant squirrel in front of 10,000 people at Trent Bridge cricket ground, which you can watch here. Okay so this one might had been just a bit of fun, well a lot of fun to be honest. However we did have two 10k races with our first at Newark and second, my most local race the Mansfield 10k. All were great successes. Then just last month I ran my first ever half marathon at the Robinhood half. This was our biggest challenge yet… of course this was our furthest run but this was also our most crowded and congested race to date too. Despite this I am very proud to say that we finished with a respectable time of 2 hours and 13 minutes and there were no incidence with great credit to Petes guiding skills. We have a few more race dates scheduled for next year ahead of our final goal, London 2016.
Running London for Guide Dogs means so much to me. The facts are, one person, every hour of every day loses their sight and I’m one of those people. I want to make sure that everyone is able to receive that same support that I was lucky enough to get. You can follow our progress over on Twitter @RunningBlind15. If anyone is interested in becoming a guide runner and changing a life today, please register on the Guide Running UK website and also enquire about the next England Athletics Guide Runner workshop in your area. You can also find more information on the life changing My Guide Service here.
Thank you for reading and just keep running!
Nathan Edge @NathanEdge94