Sunday, 19 May 2024
Sunday, 19 May 2024

London Marathon Runner Inspired by Blind Veteran’s Legacy

A woman from Staffordshire, who is preparing to run the London Marathon, has been spurred on following a chance meeting with a blind veteran who ran in the inaugural event.  

Stephanie Bryan, 40 from Newcastle-under-Lyme, will take on the 26.2-mile course alongside thousands of others on 21 April. She will be raising money for Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for vision-impaired ex-servicemen and women. 

No stranger to the event, this will be Stephanie’s third London Marathon, having first taken on the challenge in 2022. Each year she has been joined by a team of her Thea Pharmaceuticals colleagues as part of their organisation’s employee fundraising efforts. 

This year Team Thea consists of six runners using charity event places to achieve their personal goals while working together to support Blind Veterans UK. 

Stephanie said:

Having run twice before, I know what to expect now and that will hopefully make it feel a bit easier. I’m aiming to run a little faster this time but just to get over the finish line is an achievement. 

“I’ve had other people training with me this year which has motivated me but what is spurring me on the most is a chance encounter with 87-year-old blind veteran Mike King, who ran in the first London Marathon in 1987, during a recent visit to the Blind Veterans UK Centre of Wellbeing in Llandudno.” 

Mike, who has been supported by the charity since 2017, was called up for National Service with the Army in 1954 and joined the Royal Signals. He undertook batman duties with the regiment serving at Colchester and Chester. 

In 2016, Mike underwent an operation to have a cataract removed from his eye. He initially thought the operation had been a success, but a huge shock was to come. 

He said:

“I was driving home and suddenly everything went black. My sight had completely gone. My wife had to help me pull over safely and park the car and I never drove again. 

“I thought my world had come to an end and that it wasn’t worth living if I couldn’t see. 

“I did eventually regain some sight and, during treatment at the hospital, I was told about Blind Veterans UK. I was initially hesitant and didn’t think it would be for me, but my wife encouraged me to give it a go which was the best thing that ever happened to me. 

“Blind Veterans UK has changed my life. I’ve tried things such as woodturning that I never would have thought about and have been provided with equipment that has helped me including a big screen reader and an accessible phone which talks to me and helps me to keep in contact with people. 

I’ve now lost my wife and I spend a lot of time on my own so having the opportunity to visit the charity centres is lovely. I stayed at the new Centre of Wellbeing in Rustington over Christmas.” 

When Stephanie and Mike met each other, Stephanie happened to mention that she was running the London Marathon and Mike shared with her that he had run in the first ever London Marathon. 

Mike said:

I ran in nine London Marathons between 1981 and 1989. The first London Marathon was nothing like what we see today, there were only 2,000 runners.   

“When I spoke to Stephanie, I was envious of her as I loved to run, and I can’t do it anymore. Marathon running is addictive, I used to go out for a run every day. 

“I wish Stephanie the best of luck. My advice to her would be to run your own race. The worst thing you can do is to try and keep up at the beginning. Trundle along at your own pace and do your best. I am so thankful to fundraisers like Stephanie, without people like her, us blind veterans wouldn’t have the opportunities we have.” 

Stephanie said:

“Mike has sponsored me £5 and says he will sponsor me another £5 if I beat his fastest time of 2 hours and 53 minutes. He was some sort of semi-professional with his times though!” 

Stephanie has raised £440 of her £1,000 fundraising goal, if you would like to support Steph in reaching her target for Blind Veterans UK, please visit her JustGiving page.   

Stephanie is one of 15 staff members from Thea Pharmaceuticals who are taking on fundraising challenges in 2024 such as the London Marathon, London to Brighton Cycle and the Great North Run. If you are inspired by Stephanie and her colleagues and would like to take on a challenge for Blind Veterans UK, visit the charity’s website: 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/gethelp.    

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