A former non-league footballer who had his legs amputated after a hit-and-run crash is to run a half marathon on blades to raise money for dementia research.
Shaun Whiter was injured when he was hit by a car while changing a tyre at the side of the road in 2016. Following extensive rehabilitation, the ex-Newmarket Town player, who works as a youth coach for Ipswich Town, has learned to run on blades and has been gradually building up his distance.
The 31-year-old is taking on the Saucony Cambridge Half Marathon on Sunday 8 March with his friend Henry Comfort, to raise money for Alzheimer’s Research UK in honour of his grandmother who has Alzheimer’s disease.
“My grandmother lives in Ireland and during the time I was going through my rehabilitation I was not able to get over to see her. I am now able to see her more often, but her dementia has progressed and she struggles to remember who I am. I think she knows about my accident, but then it’s hard to know her feelings about it and how much she’s aware of it.
“Dementia is horrible – it doesn’t just affect the person dealing with it, it affects the whole family. I would do anything to change it. Research is so important and there have got to be breakthroughs. If we don’t support the research, people are just going to keep having to deal with this.”
Running a half marathon is the latest in a series of challenges Shaun has taken on since the accident. In 2017 he completed a 150-mile two-day tour of Suffolk on a hand-pedal bike and last year he climbed Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales.
“It’s been a two-year project to get to this race. I felt like I was physically fit, but it wasn’t until I did upright cardio again that I realised I was essentially starting from scratch.
“I had to get used to running on blades which is very different. Remember Michael Johnson who had a very upright running style, you can’t run like that on blades as you’d waste so much energy just bouncing up and down. You’ve got to lean forward to get the momentum from the blade.
“I’ve had to build it up, getting used to the technique. I started out doing 400m, then 800m then moved up to a mile and have continued from there. I ran my first 10km race in May last year and then decided I wanted to continue to push it further so set the goal of doing a half marathon.”
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Julia Sobik, Head of Sporting Events at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“We are in awe of Shaun for taking on the challenge of running the Cambridge Half Marathon for us and we look forward to cheering him on at the event.
“The vital funds he and our team of runners in the race raise will help us in our mission to make breakthroughs possible for people with dementia that will keep them connected to their families, their worlds and themselves for longer.”
Alzheimer’s Research UK is the national charity partner for the Saucony Cambridge Half Marathon and will have 180 runners in the race and a large group of volunteers cheering them on.
The UK’s leading dementia research charity, which is based at Granta Park in Great Abington near Cambridge, will have four cheer stations at the race – Chesterton Road (outside The Boathouse pub), Trumpington Street (outside the Fitzwilliam Museum), King’s College and Trumpington Road (at the Cambridge Lakes Golf Club).
For information about taking on a sporting event to raise money for Alzheimer’s Research UK, go to www.alzheimersresearchuk.org