Wednesday, 12 June 2024
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Wednesday, 12 June 2024

Blind veteran taking on Great North Run to ‘give back’

A Navy veteran from Tyne and Wear is taking on the Great North Run to support Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for vision-impaired ex-Service men and women, which has recently started to support him following sight loss.

Steve Holliday, 47, will join 60,000 other runners making their way along the 13.1-mile course from Newcastle to South Shields on 8 September.

Steve served in the Royal Navy as a chef from 1997 to 2001 but was medically discharged after breaking his knee. During his service, Steve spent a year on the Royal Yacht Britannia and also served onboard HMS Grafton as well as being based onshore at HMS Raleigh and Royal Navy Air Station Culdrose and His Majesty’s Naval Base Nelson.

It was when Steve was in his 30s that he discovered he was losing his sight.

He said:

“I visited the optician for a routine eye test; they picked up dead spots at the back of my eye. I was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, which means I have no peripheral vision.

“I buried my head in the sand and ignored it for a good while and just played lip service at medical appointments, but my sight steadily deteriorated from then and I reached a point when I realised I had to adapt in order to navigate a world with sight loss. 

“Previously, I was an absolute petrol head so I miss driving the most; I had to sell my beloved Lotus Elise, give up on my hobby of off-road driving, and I just generally miss the freedom of jumping in a car. I now rely on my wife to drive me.” 

Blind Veterans UK has supported Steve since January and has already had a home assessment and has received recommendations for equipment that will help him to retain his independence.

He said:

“I was a chef in the Navy; I love to cook and bake. Blind Veterans UK has set me up with talking scales to help me measure out my ingredients and coloured chopping boards to add contrast to my kitchen worktop so that when I put something down I can find it again. Having the support to know what equipment is out there is fantastic. 

“I’m very tech savvy and have worked with mobile phones but the staff at the charity have also been able to give me hints and tips on using my phone that I didn’t know about.

“Blind Veterans UK is fantastic at helping people with sight loss live their best life with a massive focus on the social elements that are often lost when you leave the Armed Forces. 

“I also know I have to be realistic; I won’t be able to continue to do some of my more active pursuits on my own so having Blind Veterans UK there to do these things in a safer, controlled way is so important to me. I am very conscious that I have three children; the youngest who is 13 has had a very different upbringing to my eldest who is 26 and I want to be able to ensure I can still be a hands-on, fun dad. 

“I’ve been supported by many people over the years to come to terms with my condition and feel it is time to give back, so after finding someone daft enough to be tethered to a blind man, I’ve now committed to this challenge.” 

Guiding him along the way will be childhood best friend Chris Mitchell, Chris is a serving member of the Royal Navy and this will be his first experience as a guide runner. 

Steve said:

“I trust Chris impeccably and am excited for us to take on this challenge together.

“We decided a few years ago that we would take a week off each year to go climbing together, Chris had no experience of climbing mountains, but I did so he has the eyes and I have the expertise. Together we make it up the mountain and together we will make it across the finish line of the Great North Run. 

“However, the last time I ran any great distance was in 1999 when I was in the Navy and I ran a marathon so this won’t be easy but I am excited to get out there and learn to run with sight loss.” 

Steve hopes to raise £350 for Blind Veterans UK. If you would like to support him in reaching his target please visit his fundraising page: ajbellgreatnorthrun2024.enthuse.com/pf/steven-holliday.

If you are inspired to run the Great North Run in support of Blind Veterans UK, please visit the Blind Veterans UK website for information on how you can sign up: blindveterans.org.uk/gnr.

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/gethelp.   

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