Simon was determined not to let his blindness be a barrier to doing things, including distance running. Using a mobile phone and app, he was able to start training on busy open roads without a guide. After just a few months training, a few set-backs and a lot of determination he was running ultramarathons. He now works with technology companies to help him push himself further and achieve even more incredible things.
Simon Wheatcroft runs ultra-marathons; distances of over 50, often 100 miles. As if that wasn’t gruelling enough, Simon is blind.
Born with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a degenerative eye condition, by the age of 17 Simon started to lose his vision and within ten years it had almost entirely gone. However he refused to use outside aids, learning to navigate day-to-day with feel, sound, and what little vision he retained. Life continued as normal until Simon decided to climb a mountain in Yosemite National Park with the intention of proposing to his girlfriend at the top. Despite much effort and wandering around, halfway up it became clear it was too dangerous for him to continue. He proposed anyway, but the sense of frustration didn’t leave Simon.
Back home, Simon vowed never to quit again because he was unable to see. He decided to go for a run. But how hard and how far could he run? Starting cautiously he went to a nearby football pitch and ran between the goal posts. He graduated to a closed road, and then on to the open, traffic-heavy road. With the help of the RunTracker app on his phone he learned the lay of the road, markers underfoot, and obstructions. Over the course of just a few months he built up from running just a couple of miles to be able to cover tens and even over a hundred miles.
Partnering with technology companies and using social media to find running partners Simon has gone on to run ultramarathons. He signed up for the New York marathon, but as that is only 25 miles, he started in Boston, at the head offices of RunTracker over 250 miles away. He then went on to an ultramarathon across a north African desert which, as organisers feared losing him, he wasn’t allowed to run at night (unlike other competitors).
Having worked with technology companies to help him find a way to achieve his goals, Simon is now helping them develop new ideas to take on greater challenges, working with the likes of Google, IBM and MIT. He recounts his incredible, inspiring story of determination, endurance and using new technologies to enable him to do more and go further.
© Copyright 2017 JLA. All rights reserved.
JLA Speakers Breakfast