A VISUALLY impaired runner and his guide will undertake a half-marathon in April to raise money for the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.
Over a period of just two weeks in August 2021, Sha Khan’s sight deteriorated to a point where he became unable to do many of the things he could before, which meant his mental health ‘took a huge hit’.
But, after being encouraged to take up running last year by another visually impaired Islander, getting out and about every week with guide runners at Jersey Parkrun helped rebuild his confidence.
Now, Mr Khan, whose visual impairment was caused by hereditary conditions retinitis pigmentosa and Stargardt’s disease, is taking on the London Landmarks Half Marathon alongside guide runner Terri O’Donoghue.
He is ‘personally passionate’ about the charity, as he is currently in the assessment process for his own dog, which he knows will cost the organisation thousands of pounds.
Mr Khan said: ‘I want to raise as much as I can for this beautiful charity.
‘Losing my sight made me have to rely on people around me and once I opened up to the reality, I felt the presence of the most amazing people I could ever meet: volunteers who give their time selflessly and encourage and challenge me.’
Although Mr Khan initially began running as a way to improve his mental health, he is now keen to take on the upcoming half-marathon.
He explained: ‘When I first heard about the London Landmarks Half Marathon I thought: “I wonder if I could do that?” I knew it would be a huge challenge but my self-worth, self-esteem and confidence have been so low that I wanted to prove to myself that I can still do something.’
He continued: ‘Without Terri and all those amazing volunteers at Parkrun, this would be impossible. My wish is that people with a disability can be supported to be more active, as being active has been the best remedy for my mental health.’
Ms O’Donoghue guides Mr Khan on a long run every Sunday morning. She began running in 2006, but it was not until ten years later that she started guide running as a way to make Jersey Parkrun more inclusive for visually impaired people.
‘It makes you realise how much we take our sight for granted,’ she explained. ‘When you’re running and you see a bump in the road, it’s not a big deal as you can just run around it. However, for a visually impaired runner, that can be really dangerous. You have to be that person’s eyes.’
Mr Khan admitted that he would ‘really appreciate more guide runners’, explaining that it was easy to find guides at the weekend but more difficult during the week.
‘Sometimes I am motivated to run, but I can’t find a guide runner who is free to run with me, which can make me really sad,’ he said.
For anyone looking to volunteer as a guide runner, Ms O’Donoghue suggests coming along to Parkrun at Les Quennevais on a Saturday morning to run alongside one of the current guide runners to see what is involved.
If you spot Mr Khan out running, he asks that you shout or beep so that he knows you are there.
‘I really appreciate the love from people who shout out or beep at us,’ he said. ‘I can’t see the people around us, so it’s nice to know that they are there and supporting us.’