Blind Kelly takes on the Virtual London Marathon

Blind Kelly takes on the Virtual London Marathon

by Danielle Thompson (October 2020)

A woman, blind since birth, took on this year’s Virtual London Marathon to raise almost £3,000 for The Salvation Army.

Kelly Barton, 43, from Southport, took on the challenge of running the London Marathon, along with a gruelling training schedule, to raise money for the organisation’s ‘Strawberry Field’ project in Liverpool which houses Steps to Work -  a programme that supports young adults with learning disabilities and other barriers to employment gain work.

The London Marathon was cancelled earlier in the year due to the pandemic but Kelly’s dream became a reality when she completed the challenge of running the event on Sunday (October 4) in a new format known as the Virtual London Marathon.

Kelly started at the Salvation Army church and community centre on Shakespeare Street in Southport and finished at the famous red gates of Strawberry Field in Woolton.

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Kelly, who is a volunteer co-ordinator at Strawberry Field,  said: “I haven’t been able to train much during lockdown because guide running was banned due to social distancing rules.

“It’s an amazing feeling to be able to run and to run fast. All my life I’ve gone around slowly and with such care, but now I am supported by Mike who gives me the confidence to run and although it was daunting at first, I’ll never stop. When you can’t see, you have to walk really carefully and you have a cane so I’m in control. But with a guide runner you have to put all your trust in them. Mike describes what is going on around me  and he  lets me know the sites we  pass.”

With an initial target of £2,000, she ran 26.2 miles with her partner and guide runner, Mike Leatherbarrow. Those with a visual impairment can run with a guide runner who assists them through either being tethered together or, in Kelly’s case, holding the arm, just below the elbow.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, and to prepare for this year’s run, Kelly took part in Southport’s weekly Park Run, which is five kilometres.

She added: “If by taking part in the marathon gets just one person running or encourages people to think that they can get a job or that they can do anything then it would make me so happy.”

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