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Blind U.K. runner sets off on 100-mile ultra-marathon

Hey, runners, do you feel unmotivated to train this weekend? Maybe Simon Wheatcroft's story will give you inspiration.

Mr. Wheatcroft set off with around 90 other runners today on the Cotswold Ultra 100, a 100-mile (roughly 160-km), British ultra-marathon that starts and finishes in Stratford-Upon-Avon. Unlike his fellow racers, though, Mr. Wheatcroft of Doncaster, U.K., is legally blind.

Just to put into perspective how long the course is, 160 km is roughly the distance between Ottawa and Montreal. Runners set off at noon local time on Friday and are expected to finish by no later than 6 p.m. local time on Saturday evening.

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According to Wired, Mr. Wheatcroft has been blind for 11 years, since the age of 18, due to a degenerative eye disorder, called retinitis pigmentosa. He is participating in the ultra-marathon to help raise money for the charity Sightsavers.

For any runner, the race will be gruelling, as it reaches elevations as high as 1,097 feet (334 meters) above sea level, and includes an incline of more than 400-feet (122 meters) in less than three miles (5 km), Wired says.

Mr. Wheatcroft has prepared for the challenge by developing his own running style. To train, he ran alone by memorizing a single route, and used a special audio app to keep track of his pace, distance and time. Starting out, he says, he ran for several weeks up and down a short stretch of closed road to work up his confidence.

For the race, he is relying on guide runners.

"I decided to choose ultra distance as a physical and mental challenge," Mr. Wheatcroft wrote on his web site Blind100.com. "Training alone has forced me to build on my confidence and belief to enormous levels."

Mr. Wheatcroft's progress throughout the race is being tracked on a Twitter stream posted on his web site. As of roughly 4 p.m. EST, he has already covered about a third of the distance.

Are you inspired to lace up your running shoes yet?

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About the Author

Wency Leung is a general assignment reporter for the Life section. Before joining The Globe in early 2010, she has worked as a reporter in Vancouver, Prague, and Phnom Penh. More

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