Cumbria blind veteran to tackle second 100k ultra-challenge walk for military charity

9 March 2016 10:36

A blind veteran who battled a brain tumour and two bouts of meningitis is set to tackle a second 100k ultra-challenge walk for the military charity who supports him.

Darren Blanks, 29, and a father-of-two from Egremont, hopes to walk from London to Brighton in under 20 hours this summer for Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for vision-impaired ex-Service men and women.

"I completed the 100k in 25 hours in 2014, but I blame sitting in the pub for too long," he jokes. "I want to get a faster time this year and reckon I can do the 100k in under 20 hours."

Darren served in the King's Royal Hussars from 2003, joining up two months before the invasion of Iraq. He completed two tours when he was 18 and 20 years old. After leaving the Army eight years ago, he was diagnosed with Leber's optical neuropathy, a rare genetic disease that gradually robbed him of his sight.

Following the deterioration of his eyesight, tests revealed he had a benign brain tumour four years ago. He underwent an initial operation to remove the tumour but, as a result, he lost the hearing in his left ear.

The surgery also left him with a small crack in his skull. Then, just weeks later, Darren was admitted to West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven with meningitis. And a second bout of meningitis resulted in Darren being admitted to the RVI at New castle, where he spent eight days in the intensive care unit in a coma.

He says, "I had to leave two jobs - at the Iceland supermarket and working as a postman, and I was in hospital for four months with the brain tumour."

Since Darren began to receive support from Blind Veterans UK in 2011, the charity has helped him in achieving his life and fitness goals.

Since losing his sight, he has completed the London and Brighton Marathons, Great Cumbrian Run, and several other events including walking a stretch of Hadrian's Wall. He was also the Olympic torchbearer for Egremont ahead of the 2012 London Games.

He says, "Blind Veterans UK has given me the independence and confidence to carry on life after sight loss. I've always wanted to run the London Marathon and they've helped me with that, and last year I went skiing for the first time with the charity."

Registration for the 100k, which will kick off in Fulham on Saturday 2nd July, is currently open with a registration fee of £75 for the 100km. For those not wanting to walk the full distance there is also a relay option available for teams of four walking 25k each. Teams taking part in the relay have a registration fee of £120. The all-inclusive entrance fee for participants includes lunch, dinner and breakfast at three rest stops, snacks and refreshments along the route and a free event t-shirt.

The London to Brighton 100k challenge is Blind Veterans UK's biggest annual fundraiser and takes participants from a starting point in south west London, along the banks of the Thames, through countryside paths in Surrey, Sussex and the North and South Downs to the charity's centre in Ovingdean, Brighton.