Blind Dave Heeley completes seven marathons in seven days
Blind West Bromwich man Dave Heeley carved his name into history when he crossed the finishing line at the London Marathon to become the first blind person to complete seven marathons in seven days across seven continents.
The 50-year-old father-of-three, known as Blind Dave, is only the third person to complete the Seven Magnificent Marathons challenge. And after finishing the London run, he declared: "I’m going to have a rest now."
He said: "To think seven days ago I was in the Falklands, it’s just too incredible for words. It’s going to take some quiet moments with the family for it to really hit home.
"I am the first blind person to do this. It’s been a fantastic adventure and one I’m going to talk about for a long time."
He was accompanied on each marathon by his sighted running partner Malcolm Carr.
The challenge involved running the races on seven different continents and the duo completed marathons in the Falklands Islands, Rio de Janeiro, Los Angeles, Sydney, Dubai and Tunisia before arriving London.
Dave said he was running for Guide Dogs for the Blind, "so that other blind people could have the freedom and independence I’ve had".
An overwhelmed and hugely emotional Dave crossed the finish line in 5 hours 20 minutes, falling straight into the arms of his wife Debbie and daughters Dannie, four, Georgie Lee, six, and Grace, 17.
Only two other people have ever completed the feat – Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Dr Mike Stroud in 2003. As he prepared to set off in the London Marathon, he said: "I’m a bit cold today but it’s better than the heat of Dubai. I’m looking forward to the race. I’ve got a few aches and pains but the physiotherapists have done an amazing job.
"It doesn’t matter how long it takes, as long as I get around."
By the time Malcolm and Dave crossed the finishing line on the Mall, he had run a total distance of 183.4 miles in about 168 hours, taking over 250,000 steps.
Dave has been visually impaired since birth. A big West Bromwich Albion fan, he was a keen runner as a child but had to give up the sport when he was 16 as his sight deteriorated due to retinitis pigmentosa, the name given to a group of hereditary eye disorders which affect the light-sensitive tissue – the retina – at the back of the eye.
He was registered blind in 1986 and has said his life was transformed by the work of the Guide Dogs charity.
* Fun runners, fund raisers, celebrities and professional athletes were among the 35,000-strong who took part in yesterday's marathon.
There was a carnival atmosphere at the start of the race, as runners pulled on Lycra shorts, drank energy drinks and smeared on Vaseline while friends and relatives prepared to cheer them on.
The race route was changed slightly because of a gas leak, a marathon spokesman said. She said organisers created a chicane 13 miles into the course, near Canary Wharf, to move runners to the other side of the road.
The men’s race was won by favourite Martin Lel from Kenya, nine seconds ahead of his countryman Samuel Wanjiru with Abderrahim Goumri from Morocco in third.
The highest finishing Brit in the men’s race was Dan Robinson who came 13th in what was believed to be Beijing Olympic qualifying time. British athlete Liz Yelling finished ninth in two hours 28 minutes and 33 seconds, four minutes behind the winner Irina Mikitenao, who had led for much of the race, and beat Svetlana Zakharova into second place.
British wheelchair athlete Shaho Qadir drew huge applause from the crowd when he got out of his wheelchair a few metres short of the line pushed it across, and then pulled himself over the finish on his hands. The men’s wheelchair race was won by Brit Davie Wear and the women’s wheelchair race by Sandra Graf from Switzerland.