Blind Dave Heeley ecstatic over hero's welcome
There was no mistaking the hero's welcome marathon man "Blind Dave" Heeley received as he returned to West Bromwich. He told Health Correspondent Emma Brady how he felt after achieving the 'superhuman' feat of seven marathons in seven days on seven continents.
Open top buses and British weather don't often go together, but it is a time-honoured tradition for celebrating returning victors, normally of the sporting variety.
Freddie Flintoff and the England cricket team clutching the Ashes or football players basking in cup glory, there's something emotive about the conquering hero's return.
With his beloved West Bromwich Albion currently top of the Championship, Dave Heeley hopes his own open top bus tour will pave the way for a similar civic reception next month.
But even talk of the Black Country club is enough to bring a tear to the 50-year-old's eye.
"Without a doubt today has been the icing on the cake, all I could hear was a wall of noise, sounded like thousands, absolutely fantastic.
"All I can hope is that the Baggies get their own bus tour at the end of the season," said Mr Heeley. "I was met by the legend Tony 'Bomber' Brown and Jeff Astle's wife Lorraine at Sandwell station who gave us a scarf and a rose bowl each, you could've blown me away with a feather.
"The whole thing has been amazing: The marathons, the finish, raising the Guide Dogs' profile, and now this. We feel like a pair of kings. What a homecoming."
Mr Heeley, who ran seven marathons in seven days on seven continents with his sighted partner Malcolm Carr, said he had been choked with emotion since they crossed the finish line at the Flora London Marathon on Sunday, completing their massive challenge.
Together they ran 183.4 miles, tackling 26.2 mile courses in the Falklands, Brazil, America, Australia, Dubai, Tunisia and England.
"I've got more memories than I know what to do with right now, but the enduring has to be crossing the finish in London, I don't think it hit me that we were going to do it, complete the challenge, until we saw The Mall," he said. "Each one had its own individual moments, its own highs and lows, but I'd have to say that Rio was the loneliest run because we'd had to arrange that at the last minute after not being allowed to fly to Chile."
The father-of-three, born with a hereditary condition called retinitis pigmentosa which rendered him blind by the age of 17, had to rely on Mr Carr's running commentary on the landmarks, crowds and any obstacles.
"There are things that happened which I wish I could've seen, such as the 50 soldiers running alongside us in the Falklands in full kit and the Tornado which flew overhead, and the crowds around London," added Mr Heeley.
"We were on such a tight schedule though, and to be honest I was surprised we weren't really affected by jet lag, the change in time zones or climates, because that is something we couldn't really prepare for.
"I have to say we had a fantastic team with us, the physios who kept us going by making sure we recovered well and ate well.
"The support from runners, local communities and the crowds of supporters was unbelievable.
"I couldn't see it but I could hear everything, every 'Go on Dave', every word of encouragement."
Mr Heeley has become the first blind person to complete seven marathons, on seven continents in seven days. The only other people to complete the challenge are sighted adventurers Sir Rannulph Fiennes and Dr Mike Stroud.
But for now he has a much smaller job to complete.
"To be honest, I can't wait to get back to my shed and do a bit of DIY," he admits.
"There's one or two jobs round the house that need doing, so I'm looking forward to picking up my tools again before I think about any more runs or fund-raising."