Paul, 45, and his guide Alice, 31, are running the 2023 London Marathon to raise awareness and funds for British Blind Sport (BBS). The pair met through Visually Impaired (VI) Runners Bristol, a club that has been instrumental in adding VI categories to local and national events such as the Great Run Bristol 10K and Half Marathon.
Paul was diagnosed with Closed Angle Glaucoma in June 2020. He has lost vision in his right eye and 50% of his vision in his left eye. He talks about his running journey and what taking on the 26.2-mile challenge means to him.
"Having this condition initially turned my world upside down. I previously served in the armed forces and led a very active lifestyle. Losing my sight and driving licence felt like I was losing my independence. Sight loss can be extremely overwhelming, and it can be hard to see a way forward. Sport has helped so much with my mental health. When I am struggling, running can clear my head.
I first learned about VI Runners Bristol running club in 2021, but it took some time for me to take the first step and give it ago. We run every Wednesday night, followed by some socialising in the pub. We are such a supportive group and everyone is welcome, not just VI runners and guides.
From starting my running journey with VI runners Bristol, I have completed a 10K and a half marathon. I am now deep in training for my first and second full marathons in Brighton and London.
The London Marathon is such a big deal and is something I thought I'd never be a part of. Being accepted into team BBS is the stuff dreams are made of. Just knowing we are part of a sporting community filled with inspirational people gives me a sense of belonging and shows that sight loss is not the end of the road and there are resources there to help.
Training can be hard, and there are many times when staying in seems like a better option, but I must look at the bigger picture of why I am doing it. I remind myself there are people that do not have the same opportunities and would do anything to go out. Being able to do my bit to help the charity and keep it moving forward in the future is so important.
My guide Alice has been supporting my training and taking the lead with fundraising. She helped to organise a VI parkrun takeover, where VI walkers, runners and guides from all over the Southwest came together. This raised awareness in the local community about BBS, guide running and access to running for those with sight loss.
I come from a family of runners, but never really caught the bug. It's crazy to think that all these years later I am now carrying on the tradition. The support from my whole family has been amazing and they are proud of what I am achieving."
We are immensely proud of Team BBS and value each and every member's commitment. If you would like to support Paul and Alice to reach their fundraising target, please visit their JustGiving page at: www.justgiving.com/aliceandpaul2023
You can find a guide runner in your area by searching the national Find a Guide Database at: https://runtogether.co.uk/get-involved/find-a-guide/
Guide runner Alice and runner Paul following their London Marathon run with their medals.