A former member of the British Army from North Wales is running the London Marathon to raise money for Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for vision-impaired ex-Service men and women.
Matt Spruce, 41 years old and from Colwyn Bay, will take on the gruelling 26.2-mile run on 23 April.
“The military veteran community is a group that is close to my heart. I joined the British Army when I was 16 and served for 23 years as a combat medical technician in the Royal Army Medical Corps.
“During my time I served in several operations, including Iraq and Afghanistan, and I saw first-hand the devastating injuries suffered by our servicemen and women.
“I find it incredibly humbling to see the work military charities like Blind Veterans UK do to better the lives of those who have suffered life-changing injuries.
“I was fortunate to leave the military unscathed but that isn’t to say I won’t need support from a military charity in the future. I feel very fortunate to be able to support the work that Blind Veterans UK does.
“I’ve recently learnt that someone I served with, someone who is a similar age to me, has lost his sight. It is still early in his journey, but I know Blind Veterans UK will be there for him if he wants their support. The charity is not just for older veterans, it is for anyone who has served their country.”
Matt has run four marathons before, but this will be his first London Marathon.
“This is a tough marathon to train for, the majority of the training has to happen during the winter months when it’s dark, cold and wet. It’s hard to get the motivation to go out after work when the daylight has already disappeared.
“My aim is to get myself fit enough to enjoy the day and to ensure I do my best for all those that are already donating towards Blind Veterans UK, this is what is motivating me.
“I started training the first week of December and I’m running around 50km a week. I’m not going to win the marathon and I’ve no specific time in mind, I just want to have fun and not be in pain!
“In the military, looking after your fitness and training are part of the job. I’d train three or four times a week during work time. When you leave you need to learn how to be a civilian, your habits change, and I was no longer looking after my fitness.
“Being awarded a place in the London Marathon to represent Blind Veterans UK has changed that and I now can’t go more than two days without a run. I’m enjoying it and I want to keep it going.”
Matt is aiming to raise £2,000 for the charity and uses social media as a way in which to raise awareness of his fundraising. His approach has enabled him to involve his supporters in his fundraising journey and ask for support in a way more suited to the current financial climate.
“It’s a difficult time to be asking for money from people due to the current cost of living crisis, social media allows me to reach out to people with a personal touch but without putting people on the spot face to face.
“I started off by sending a message to 50 of my social media contacts letting them know about my latest fundraising challenge. I have followed that up with funny messages and links to a video diary of my training and my fundraising which allows donors and potential donors to feel part of the journey with me.”
Matt has also found he has reconnected with old friends and colleagues and reached people outside of his ordinary circles with his request for support.
“My contacts have shared my messages with friends and family of theirs who they know would be interested in supporting me and this amazing cause. As the messages have spread wider, people I have lost contact with over the years, including soldiers I served alongside, have sent me messages of support and donated which is a really special and unexpected bonus to social media fundraising.”
When asked how he felt about the fact he has already managed to raise £1,200 of his target Matt said: “I really am grateful for every penny I raise.”
If you would like to support Matt to reach his £2,000 target please visit his JustGiving page.
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.