Gwent blind veteran tackles half marathon for military charity
4 February 2016 11:05
A blind veteran from Cwmbran will take on the Brighton Half Marathon next month (28/02) for Blind Veterans UK to thank the charity for its continuing support.
Charlie Parkinson, 39, and his sighted guide Ben Black hope to beat their personal best time of 1:45 while raising awareness and funds for Blind Veterans UK. Running the Half Marathon will also help Charlie prepare to tackle his third London Marathon later this year.
Charlie joined the Army as an infantryman in 1995 and served until 1998 in the UK, Cyprus and Jordan. He re-enlisted in 2001, joining the Royal Army Medical Corps until October 2002. Following service, he worked in the construction industry across the UK, but had to stop work in 2012 due to his failing sight.
He was diagnosed with glaucoma in both eyes and lost the sight in his left eye. Today he has a prosthetic in one eye and, last year, had five operations to retain some sight in the other. He is currently completely blind and awaiting some sight to return.
He says, "The sight loss stopped me doing what I loved. I used to play rugby and had to stop. I boxed for my battalion and it stopped me doing that as well. And then, when I lost the sight in both my eyes, it really hit home."
Blind Veterans UK is the national charity for vision-impaired ex-Service men and women. The charity helped Charlie back into running, as he had lost his confidence due to losing his sight. Since he started to receive support in 2012, he has done the Three Peaks challenge, three Great South Runs, three Brighton Half Marathons, two London Marathons and a 100k ultra-challenge walk from London to Brighton.
He says, "I owe my life to Blind Veterans UK. When I got support, everything started looking up. They basically got me back on my feet and on track with my life."
The charity gave him IT training and are supporting him back into work. He has been accepted onto a college course in Hereford, beginning this March, to study sports therapy massage, with a focus on sports injuries. Blind Veterans UK also provided him with a treadmill to train for his races and introduced him to a sighted guide to run outside.
He says, "Running has kept me fit and it's something I enjoy. I have the treadmill, but I like running outside. I feel a sense of freedom."
"I'm particularly looking forward to completing the Half Marathon with the help of my long-time friend Ben. He's supported me in hitting my fitness targets for Blind Veterans UK. I couldn't do without him."
The Vitality Brighton Half Marathon 2016 will be held on 28 February. To support Charlie as he tackles the Brighton Half Marathon, London Marathon, and - later this year - a 100k ultra-challenge run, please visit: www.justgiving.com/charliechallenges/