Edinburgh woman Rachel Freeman is gearing up to complete the 2018 London Marathon on Sunday 22 April in aid of sight loss charity RNIB.
The 50 year-old was inspired by a childhood fascination with Louis Braille, inventor of the raised dots touch-alphabet, and American activist Helen Keller, the first woman ever to graduate with a degree despite being deaf-blind.
“I don't have a moving personal story of adversity being defeated through perseverance, or a close relative or friend who is partially sighted or blind,” says Rachel. “My family and I have been blessed with full sight. But that doesn't take away from my interest in supporting the work of groups like RNIB Scotland which help those who are.
“As a child I had a tremendous interest in Louis Braille - I had a book with the Braille alphabet - and Helen Keller, as it was clear that having disabilities didn’t mean you couldn’t achieve.”
Rachel, who lives in Edinburgh’s New Town, is an operations director for artificial intelligence company Creative Virtual. London will be her third marathon.
“I’ve only been running for four and a half years,” she says, “I started late. My first marathon was New York in 2016, then Berlin last year. I'm slow but getting faster and I’m keen to take on London.
“I didn’t run for a charity in my first two marathons because I felt a bit awkward about not doing it well enough to warrant anyone's donations. This is the first marathon I'm confident that I will break five hours and I'm ready to shout about it and raise money for a cause I believe in.”
Rachel has been further inspired by the blind and partially sighted runners she meets – and is overtaken by! - doing the same marathons as her.
“I've had several blind runners with their guides pass me and I often thought that when I become a stronger runner I could offer to be a run-guide myself. I'm working on getting stronger to feel more confident about this. I'm not convinced any runner would want me to guide them if my current goal is to break five hours!”
She strives to run three or four times a week and runs around Canary Wharf when she is in London every few weeks with work. “I’m a pseudo-WILLIE,” she laughs, “’Works in London, Lives in Edinburgh’. But it does mean I’m at least familiar with the part of the marathon route in that area, including the Greenwich Observatory and Cutty Sark.
“I joined the Edinburgh Running Network to do my long runs on Sundays,” she adds, “and I will do the Inverness half-marathon on March 11th to get a sense of how – or if - I have improved.”
Lizzi Wagner, RNIB senior challenge events manager, said: “This year is the 150th anniversary of RNIB, so the Virgin Money London Marathon is extra special and we're hoping to raise almost £300,000 to support our vital work. We’re delighted to have Rachel on Team RNIB and can’t wait to cheer her all the way to the finish line.
“The money she raises will enable us to provide advice and support to even more people living with sight loss across the UK, so please sponsor Rachel to help her reach her fundraising target.”