Blind runner on his marks to tackle first half marathon for Francis House Hospice

A RUNNER hopes to further prove people wrong by completing his first half marathon – which will be some achievement given he is blind.

Geoff Clarke

Geoff Clarke will take part in the Oulton Park Half Marathon at the Cheshire racetrack of the same name on March 3.

But the fact he can compete in anything is testament to his grit and determination as the 71-year-old is completely blind having lost his sight at the age of 28.

And he will be doing it for a good cause as he hopes to raise £1,000 or more for Francis House Children’s Hospice.

However, do not tell the retired solicitor that he is inspirational, he insists he is just doing what he does.

For him, he has already achieved the reason why he started running in the first place.

“I started running when I was diagnosed with diabetes about 10 years ago,” Geoff said. “I said I’d do it to try and lose a bit of weight.

“I’ve lost three or four stone since then.

“I’m proud of my achievements. When I started running, if I could run up to 20 minutes that would be good, now it takes me the best part of two hours to run 10 miles.

“I did my first 5km after about six months and I’ve done several 10ks since, so the half marathon is the next step.

“I won’t be doing a full marathon, though. Judging on the basis it takes me two hours to run 10 miles, that would be six or seven to do a marathon and I’m not sure my knees could take it!

“I’ll leave that for others to say if my achievement I inspirational. I’ve seen people say that I’m modest but I just do what I do basically.

“At the moment, we’ve raised about £800 but the target is £1,000. Hopefully we will hit it.”

Geoff, who has also beaten testicular cancer, often trains with Janet Grint, who picked the Oulton Park race because of its fairly flat course.

And he admits preparing for the race has taken its toll, adding: “I didn’t pick this one, Janet picked this one for us. I told her I wanted to do a half marathon this year and she picked a reasonable one.

“But my knees are showing their age. Psychologically, I always feel the need to be able to run further.

“We aim to go out once a week, I just go wherever she takes me. My aim is just to finish the race and run all the way, that would be ideal.”

Janet and Geoff, of Ladysmith Road, often head out in tandem with a strap linking them and guiding him on their training run between Ashton town centre and Park Bridge.

And his partner revealed there have been one or two times when thing did not go to plan for the governor at Co-op Academy in Blackley, Manchester.

“We’ve been running for two hours a week at weekends,” Janet told the Correspondent.

“He’s totally blind, he can’t see anything at all but he’s so determined. When he decided a few months ago that he was going to do this run, there was no way he wasn’t going to do it.

“He wanted to do it last year but he got injured.

“We have a strap that we both hold when we’re out running. Sometimes I forget I’ve got it when I try to avoid something!

“And there have been one or two falls. I remember one occasion when I landed on top of him but we laugh about it!”

• Geoff is looking to raise £1,000 for Francis House Children’s Hospice. To donate, visit his Just Giving page: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/geoff-clarke71

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