Two women holding their trainers up to the camera

During May 2021, 184 fabulous pairs of Marathon Mates took part in our virtual running event.

Altogether, they raised £28,351 and ran 1,057 miles – what an incredible achievement. This money will make a huge difference to the two million people with sight loss across the UK; ensuring they have access to vital support and advice whenever they need it.

Launched in 2020, Marathon Mates sees participants pair up to split a marathon distance (26.2 miles) between them during a month, whether they're side by side or miles apart. We can't wait for next year's event – if you think you may be interested in participating, please register your interest. For the time being, have a look at some of our fabulous runners below.

Talia and Nada

Talia Treen from Birmingham and her friend, Nada Burgess from Solihull, have both worked for many years in the area of ophthalmology. Talia is an RNIB Eye Clinic Liaison Officer (ECLO); providing emotional and practical support to people receiving a sight loss diagnosis, while Nada is an eye surgeon in training. 

Talia and Nada decided to go quite a bit further in the Marathon Mates challenge: instead of splitting the marathon distance, they completed a full marathon distance each!

Talia said: “As with so many others, we succumbed to the inactivity of lockdown but the idea of Marathon Mates stemmed from us participating in Couch to 5k. 

“Marathon Mates is perfect for us given that we work with blind and partially sighted people every day. This challenge allows us to combine something we like with fundraising for a cause close to our hearts. Through the work we do, Nada and I have seen how the right support for people with sight loss can help them to lead independent lives.”

Nala added:

We see our patients having to go the extra mile every single day of their lives to retain independence. This is us trying to go the extra mile for them.

Michelle and Eli

Michelle and Eli wearing sunglasses outside and smiling at the camera

Michelle and her five year old son Eli – who are both keen runners – completed Marathon Mates 2021. Eli is partially sighted as he was born with nystagmus, a condition where the eyes move uncontrollably, and ocular albinism.  

Michelle said: “Eli and I really enjoy running together and think Marathon Mates is a great opportunity to do something we love while also raising money for RNIB. We plan to split the distance between us and do 13.1 miles each! I also want to let other parents of visually impaired children know about the support RNIB offers and how it can help.”

Eli hasn’t let his sight loss hold him back and has been running with his mum in the countryside near their home since the age of three. Michelle helps Eli while they're running by telling him what’s coming up on the route and letting him know about any uneven ground. 



Emma Arnold, aged 33 and mum of two from Hengoed, took on the Marathon Mates challenge.

The challenge supports a cause close to Emma’s heart, as 15 years ago she started to notice black spots in her right eye that got progressively worse. At the University Hospital of Wales Eye Clinic, Emma was told that she had experienced a blood clot at the back of her eye, and that her sight could not be saved.

Emma said: “I was devastated. I had just completed my A levels and passed my driving test, then everything was turned upside down. Things got even worse when I woke up one night in excruciating pain. I was rushed to hospital where I was told that the pressure in my eye was 58 – the normal range is around 20. I now have no sight at all in my right eye.

“I definitely went through a grieving process. I became very depressed, and at my darkest times contemplated ending my life. Thankfully I have very supportive family and friends who helped me through. I also called the RNIB Helpline – they sent someone out to talk to me and it helped so much. That’s why I’m taking on the Marathon Mates challenge. I want more people to have access to this same crucial help.”


Jacob on his bike, wearing a helmet and smiling at the camera

Another one of our Marathon Mates was Jacob Ferguson, age nine from Leigh.

Jacob, who was diagnosed with Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis when he was six months old, took his fundraising one step further by completing the 26.2 mile distance all by himself.

The condition, which predominantly affects the retina, is hereditary, with his father and two younger brothers also living with Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis. 

Jacob ran, walked, cycled and even rode his scooter for a mile to help him reach the target distance during the month of May.

Jacob said: “I enjoyed the tough challenge of completing a marathon independently.

I wanted to sign up to Marathon Mates so RNIB can help other people who are blind or partially sighted. I really enjoy their Talking Books and my family have bought lots of games from RNIB's shop, so we can all play together. 

Watch our video: thank you to all 2021 Marathon Mates