A blind veteran from Liverpool is taking part in this year’s London Marathon on 23 April to show his support for the military charity that helped him to rebuild his life after sight loss.
Mark Maddock, who is 49 and now lives in Austria, has been supported by Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for vision-impaired ex-Service men and women, since he was injured in a car accident and lost his sight at the age of 23.
“I’ve already run the London Marathon three times. On the first occasion in 2005, I reached 18 miles and nearly collapsed due to low blood sugar. Somehow, I managed to run the rest of the way and completed it in five and a half hours, but this was inadequate to me; I needed to do it again and run faster.
“In 2016 I ran in four and a half hours and in 2018, I made it around in under four hours. Since then, I’ve also run three marathons in Austria where I now live.
“I’ll be 50 this year and my times have been getting quicker as I age. I have a very active lifestyle and I run every day, it’s been possible for me to fulfil my dreams of being a dedicated runner due to the unconditional love, understanding and support I receive from my dear wife Elisabeth.”
Mark served in the Royal Artillery for just over nine years. He trained in Nuneaton and then spent time-based in Germany and in Salisbury.
“I was on duty at Larkhill in Salisbury and left work to travel home to Liverpool. It was on this journey when I was 23 years old that I was involved in a car accident.
“I was in a coma for seven weeks following the accident; when I woke up, I couldn’t see properly. I was told I’d suffered swelling on the brain which had damaged my optic nerve. There was a possibility that the swelling would go down and my sight may have returned but eventually, I gave up hope.
“It was a big shock to lose my career, but I took time to reflect on what I had already achieved, and I couldn’t be negative about that. All I could do was look forward.
“I went back to education and re-sat my GCSEs and eventually ended up at university studying sport and exercise science. I left the degree after two years and took a sports therapy diploma at college.
“This led to a short career working as a sports therapist at athletics clubs and a football club.
“While at college, I met my wife; we moved to Austria in 2005 and have six children. Since moving here, I’ve been practicing remedial massage and sports therapy in a rehabilitation home and on a self-employed basis.
“I’ve always tried to maintain as normal of a life as possible, but I have had people verbally and physically attack me in the street for walking into them when they don’t realise I’m visually impaired. In some ways, these incidents have made me a stronger and more resilient person.”
While Mark was recovering in hospital after his accident, an officer from his regiment visited him and told him about Blind Veterans UK.
“Soon after I left hospital, I was visited by the charity; they’ve supported me since. I’m fairly independent but it’s reassuring to know there are people on the end of the phone if you need them.
“The charity supported me in having renovations done to my home to make it suitable and have provided equipment such as glasses. I’ve also had ongoing rehabilitation support and training.
“Even though I now live in Austria, the charity is still supporting me and regularly checks in to find out how I’m doing. Blind Veterans UK is a brilliant charity, they have always been there for me.
“I am very proud to be once again representing Blind Veterans UK at the London Marathon. I know first-hand what they do every single day for blind veterans; I’m honoured to have this opportunity to wear the t-shirt and raise awareness of their incredible work.”
If you would like to run in support of Blind Veterans UK in next year’s London Marathon, visit the event page here: blindveterans.org.uk/london-
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.