Nick was partially sighted from birth, he lost the sight in his right eye at the age of 15 and then gradually lost his remaining sight in his mid-20s. For the last ten years or so he has had no useful vision at all. Nick started running in 2015 during a particularly difficult time in his life.
Nick tells his story
On the surface I was a confident, relatively independent professional and an acclaimed public speaker. But my experience of sight loss and the reaction of others to me being visually impaired left me with feelings of fear and anxiety, self-loathing and insecurity. I increasingly developed an unhealthy emotional dependence on my wife, became socially isolated and suffered massive mood swings. Such negative emotions and behaviour were in part due to my sight loss but massively increased by the addictions that I had turned to.
The worst year of my life
In December 2015 when I was 38 I had the worst year of my life and my marriage broke down. I have never endured a time like the first part of that year. It was the darkest, coldest, most miserable and desperate period I have ever known. So, in the midst of the worst pain I’ve ever known, during life-changing therapy, as I began to make some of the most important discoveries about myself that I’ve ever made, I started to run. I’d never taken sport seriously at any stage of my life. At certain times I’d attempted to exercise and lose weight - sometimes for a prolonged period - but I had never encountered anything like the range of feelings and benefits that I began to experience through running.
A cataclysmic occurrence that changed my life
One day during all of this I had a conversation with Tim - my old friend from school. At the end of January we sat in a pub and I told Tim the whole story of my separation and addictive behaviour. In the course of the conversation, I explained that I was starting to do a little bit of running. I had started to run a little more often and had aspirations of one day running a half-marathon. I had an idea that running might be something that I could focus on during what I hoped would be my recovery from addiction. I explained this to Tim. I told him that I’d love to run a full marathon one day - maybe in a couple of years. Tim responded with a statement which completely changed my life - a sentence that I will never forget. This statement was a moment in time, a cataclysmic occurrence which interrupted the previous flow of my existence and set me on a radically different path. Tim said:
“You could run a marathon this year if you wanted to.”
I couldn’t believe it. I asked him if he was serious, but I knew that he was. And do you know what? I did. Just eight months after that conversation with my incredible friend, inspiration and guru, Tim Vincent, I ran my first marathon. And, I absolutely loved it. Running has transformed my life.
I can remember the incredible feeling of running six miles for the first time. The sense of achievement, elated exhaustion, victory, power, confidence and joy was just amazing. I remember slipping it in to every conversation I had that evening - oh yeah, I just went for a run after work and did 6 miles. I was so proud!
How do I run with a Guide?
When I run I hold a 30cm blue strap and my guide holds the other end. I also follow their elbow a little bit for extra guidance. My guides tell me to tuck in if I’m going to hit a lamp post, inform me of steps up or down, direct me left or right if the turn is any more than slight, and advise me if the underfoot terrain is uneven. Although I need someone to guide me, I find the experience of running incredibly releasing. It gives me a powerful sense of independence.
Why do I run?
So, why do I run? I run because it gives me an incredibly helpful paradigm for living, especially through difficult times. I run because it makes me incredibly fit and I now like the way I look. I run because it brings a sense of vitality to some of the basic elements of life. I love to run with my friends who guide me - it’s amazing to share such experiences with wonderful people. I run because of the sense of independence, control, power, joy, masculinity and achievement it provides. You see, everything that I tried in vain to find in the addictive behaviour, I now find in running. And, there are no side effects - only more and more benefits.