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Blind Runner Starts Off on 100-Mile Ultramarathon

• Erik Malinowski via WIRED.com

Stratford-upon-Avon is best known as the birthplace of playwright William Shakespeare, whose works have been told and retold for centuries. But this scenic town 100 miles northwest of London could be the sight of another tale worth retelling, that of Simon Wheatcroft.

At noon local time, 90 people took off at the starting line of the Cotswold 100, a grueling 100-mile ultramarathon that sneaks its way north through the British countryside before circling back toward south Warwickshire. Wheatcroft, however, won’t be able to soak in all the scenery as he slogs his way along the course. That’s not because his attention will be fixated on the task on the hand — finishing the race in the maximum 30-hour time limit — although it certainly will be.

You see, Wheatcroft is legally blind and has been so for the last 11 years. He has a degenerative eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa, which directly affects the retina, so his eyes can’t properly convert visual cues to nerve signals that get processed in the brain. While somewhat genetic, the condition affects roughly one in 4,000 people in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health. There is no cure or effective treatment.

For the last few months, he’s been dutifully keeping Wired.com readers apprised of his ever-increasing stamina, how his nutrition regimen has evolved, the hunt for a new team that will help pace him through the event. Finally, the time has come to run the race, which won’t be easy.

 

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