A blind veteran from Hampshire is running the Great South Run in Portsmouth with his son as his guide to raise money for Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for vision-impaired ex-Service men and women.
On October 15, Chris Lee and his son Ryan will be joining thousands of other runners taking on the ten-mile course along the seafront and through the historic dockyard.
Chris, who is 54 and from Portsmouth, said:
“I’ve never been one for running, the last time I ran ten miles was probably in 1990!
“Taking on the Great South Run was my son Ryan’s idea. He wanted to do it to raise money for Blind Veterans UK as a thankyou for the support the charity has given me. My wife then suggested that I do it with him.
“Ryan will be acting as my guide as I am completely blind in one eye and only have around 20% vision in the other.
“I’m not a runner and it may well end up being more of a walk than a run; just completing it will be an achievement and raising money for Blind Veterans UK is my goal.”
Chris joined the Army in 1986 when he was 17 years old. He had intended to join the Royal Navy but by chance, he came across an Army recruitment officer and signed up.
Following his training at Deepcut Barracks, Chris served with the Royal Army Ordnance Corps as an ammunition storesman before becoming a staff clerk assigned to the Adjutant General’s Corps. His final posting was with the Royal Military Police based in Chichester.
In 1995, Chris was medically discharged from the Army as a lance corporal after developing type one diabetes. He went on to work for Hampshire Constabulary, the prison service and a local college.
At the age of 52, Chris discovered he was losing his sight and was diagnosed with anterior ischaemic optic neuropathy in both eyes which is caused by damage to the optic nerve.
“It was a bolt out of the blue, totally unexpected. It felt like all the plans my wife and I had made, now that our children were old enough to look after themselves, were no longer going to be possible.”
Chris discovered Blind Veterans UK and began being supported by the charity in 2021.
“I have experienced so much since joining Blind Veterans UK, I’ve done things I’d never even thought about doing before and re-visited other things that I thought I’d never get to experience again.
“I’ve been on a target week which included axe throwing, archery and clay pigeon. Out of 24 targets, I successfully hit 18; I was pleased with that. Driving week at the charity’s Centre of Wellbeing in Llandudno saw me trying quad bikes, go-karts and hovercraft.
“While on these stays, we get three meals a day, entertainment, fantastic accommodation and amazing activities; there is nowhere else that I’d get to experience all that.
“You also get to spend time with other blind veterans and within ten minutes of meeting, we are all chatting and sharing stories. You make friends and the staff are brilliant. Nothing is ever too much for them.
“I am quite adventurous and I will give anything a go. I intend to experience as much as I can with Blind Veterans UK and I also want to support the charity as much as I can hence putting on a pair of running shoes and challenging myself to run ten miles for the first time in around 30 years!”
If you would like to support Chris in raising money for Blind Veterans UK please visit: justgiving.com/ryan-lee32.
If you have a place in the Great South Run, or another challenge, and want to fundraise for Blind Veterans UK please visit: blindveterans.org.uk/fundraise.
Blind Veterans UK supports thousands of blind veterans across the country but knows there are many thousands more who still need its support to rebuild their lives after sight loss.
If you, or someone you know, served in the Armed Forces, including National Service, and are now struggling with sight loss, then please get in touch. Call 0800 389 7979 or visit: blindveterans.org.uk/support.