“Unknown to my family, I was born with the genetic degenerative eye condition Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), which gradually deteriorates the retina. At age 13, during a routine eye test, the optician noticed something strange about my retina. A few months later I was diagnosed with RP and by the age of 17, my vision had deteriorated to the point where I became legally blind.
"I no longer have peripheral or central vision (loss of acuity on central), edge detection, or color detection, and I have compromised light sensitivity and complete night blindness. In terms of what that looks like when observing a scene, I just have a fog of dull color that covers a small percentage of visual field. For example I can no longer see faces or details of people, just a sense of figures that move.
"I decided to start running to expand possibilities. Feeling down after quitting climbing a mountain because I couldn't see, I decided to see if it was possible to run solo outdoors. Pairing what it feels like underfoot with audio distance markers from my phone, I memorised a route. There were a few bumps and bruises along the way from road signs and lampposts, but I had managed to begin to train alone.
"I then decided to see how far I could run, around 6 months after learning to run I stood at the start line of my first race. A 100 mile road race. From that point on I have continued to compete at different distances until I eventually decided to run a marathon.
"That marathon was NYC, but I thought it might be more fun to run from Boston to the start line of NYC, then run the marathon. Sponsored by AirBnB and RunKeeper, I completed that journey – over 250 miles in 11 consecutive days! It was a wonderful race and I was only 13 minutes shy of qualifying for Boston. That meant only one thing: I needed to shave those few minutes off to get to Boston.
"Thankfully, I did and I ran my first Boston Marathon on Team With A Vision in 2015 - I loved it so much that I can’t wait to come back back in 2016! This year it will also be serving as a training run of sorts, as 2 weeks later I will be heading to the Naimibian desert to find out if a blind person can compete solo in a 160 mile desert ultra marathon!"
Simon’s story, and in particular the ways in which he has adapted technology such as Runkeeper to run solo, has been featured in a wide range of media outlets, from TV and radio to print and online. Simon has also been featured in numerous advertising campaigns that ran across TV in Europe and worldwide through online media outlets.
Heather Armstrong (Guide)
Salt Lake City, Utah
Heather is the founder of dooce.com, one of the world's most famous "Mommy Bloggers," and a New York Times bestselling author. Forbes Magazine named Heather one of the 30 Most Influential Women in Media and Time Magazine twice named her blog as one of the top 25 in the world. This will be her first time as a sighted guide.
Learn more about her journey in her blog post "From here to the finish line in Boston".
"I'm thrilled to be joining Team With A Vision to help guide athlete Simon Wheatcroft to the Boston Marathon finish line, and equally grateful for what this responsibility means. I started running in 2011 when I was invited to run the New York City Marathon—mind you, I had never run more than two miles in my entire life—and because I accepted the opportunity less than two months out from the race I was ill-prepared for what 26.2 miles can do to legs, arms, feet, and certain toenails. I broke my foot at mile 17, but I finished the race!
"Thankfully I caught whatever bug it is that infects you when you find yourself smiling during a five-mile run (WHY AM I SMILING? WHY DO I LOVE THIS?), and have continued to participate in races in the years since. Just last year I completed both the Kilimanjaro and Golden Gate Half Marathons in Tanzania and San Francisco, respectively.
"This race is completely different for me, however, because I've dedicated myself to a strict training regimen that I haven't ever committed to before. Knowing that someone is counting on me to make it to the finish line, knowing that I will be representing this organization and the hope that they bring to so many people, is a responsibility that has transformed me. I've never been so physically and mentally disciplined, and that is such a gift. I have Team With A Vision and Simon to thank for that.
"When I'm not telling people, 'Sorry, can't grab lunch with you. I have to run 16 miles!' I'm a full-time single mother of two beautiful girls, ages 12 and 6, a dog lover and frequent flyer. My job as a speaker and writer has taken me to every continent except Antarctica, but because I hate winter I'm not too upset about that.
"Throughout my career I've built a platform that has afforded me opportunities I could have never imagined, experiences like attending the White House Correspondent's dinner and making friends with Peter Frampton at an airport. And because I've been so lucky to indulge in these adventures, I believe this platform comes with a duty, an obligation to speak up and shed light and raise awareness when and where it is needed. Running with Team With A Vision is an honor, and I could not be more enthusiastic about lending my voice to their phenomenal work."