Blind Dave targets an Aberdeen double
Dave Heeley has been blind for most of his adult life but that never stopped the 59 year-old from tackling many daring challenges and next month he will attempt a unique double in the inaugural Simplyhealth Great Aberdeen Run.
While thousands of competitors will tackle either the 10km or the half marathon ‘Blind Dave’ as he likes to be known, will run in both races.
It’s all part of the inspirational West Midlands man’s remarkable plan to take part in all 25 of the 2017 Great Run series events in the lead up to his 60th birthday later this year.
An avid West Bromwich Albion fan, Blind Dave also aims to raise a significant amount of money for the Albion Foundation, a charity which supports blind football and disability sport in general, as well as providing help for children from under-privileged backgrounds.
Aberdeen will be the 14th venue on his tour and is the most northerly of his Great Run appearances in Britain while the Great South Run in Portsmouth is the most southerly one. He does, however, also intend travelling much further afield to take part in the Great Ethiopian Run in November.
Blind Dave started his Great Run adventure in Edinburgh and has already competed in the 10km and half marathon at the Great Manchester Run in May and he intends doing the half marathon and marathon at the Great Birmingham Run in October.
He said: “I just love doing all this stuff. There was a spell way back when I first realised I was going blind that I felt sorry for myself. I cried, moaned a lot and was generally looking for sympathy. But one day I snapped out of it and decided to start living life to the full.
“I began to focus on the things I could do, rather than those I couldn’t. I started laughing and smiling properly and began to do lots of crazy things like driving at Brand’s Hatch and getting behind the controls of a tank in Scotland. I’ve never looked back and I’ve probably done more exciting things and enjoyed more fantastic experiences than I would have if I hadn’t lost my sight.”
Since taking up running, Blind Dave has chalked up a number of remarkable achievements. He completed seven marathons in seven days on seven different continents, starting with the Falkland Islands (Antarctica), before continuing to Rio, Brazil, (South America), Los Angeles, (North America), Sydney, (Australasia), Dubai, (Asia) and Tunisia, (Africa), before finishing off at the London marathon. He has also run and cycled from John o’ Groats to Land’s End and has taken part in the Marathon Des Sables, a six day slog through the Sahara Desert which is billed as the toughest foot race on earth.
He said: “I enjoyed running as a youngster and I held my town’s record for the 1500m. I also liked cross country, but in my teens, as my eyesight deteriorated, I had to give it all up as I couldn’t see the lines on the track or find my way round the courses.
“I didn’t get back into running until many years later, after I got my first guide dog. I was sitting in the pub one night and this guy came up to me and said he’d seen me going about and was keen to raise some money for the guide dogs. He asked what he could do and I told him if he did the London marathon, I would do it with him. And we did. I can’t tell you how good it felt when I completed it. It was absolutely brilliant and that was me hooked.”
“I’ve lost count of how many marathons and other races I’ve completed. I’ve now done the Great North Run 15 years in a row and for a long time I had spoken about trying to do all the Great Runs. When I was thinking about something to do for my 60th birthday year it seemed appropriate that this would be the time to go for it.”
“I’m looking forward to running in Aberdeen. I’ve been there before because we have a Great Aunt who stays in the area and I know it’s a lovely city. I enjoy running in different places and although I’m blind, my guide runners are very good at describing the various landmarks along the way. I reckon I’ve worn out most of my guide runners over the years but I have two guys who regularly guide for me nowadays, Tony Ellis and Garry Wells, and they are brilliant. I get great memories from their words.”
“I don’t really set out with any particular target time in mind for my races these days but it’s amazing how, when I pin that race number on my chest, I get inspired and the competitive edge comes out.”
The Simplyhealth Great Aberdeen Run is from the organisers of the Simplyhealth Great North Run, the world's biggest half marathon, held every year between Newcastle and South Shields.
The event is being delivered in partnership with Aberdeen City Council, Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce, VisitAberdeenshire, and Aberdeen Inspired. It is being supported by the Aberdeen City Centre Masterplan.
To sign up for the Simplyhealth Great Aberdeen Run please visit greatrun.org/Aberdeen
To support Blind Dave’s charity, please visit www.justgiving.com/blinddavegreatrunseries2017