AN Islander whose sight rapidly deteriorated within just two weeks is ready to take on his first half-marathon this weekend – after already smashing his fundraising target for guide dogs.
Visually-impaired runner Shadat Khan will be tackling the London Landmarks Half Marathon tomorrow alongside guide runner, Terri O’Donoghue.
They have been fundraising in aid of Guide Dogs UK while Mr Khan waits for his own guide dog, and have already surpassed their initial fundraising target of £1,000.
Over a period of two weeks in August 2021, Mr Khan’s sight deteriorated to a point where he cannot recognise shapes and people.
As a result, he became unable to do many of the things he previously could.
Describing how his mental health ‘took a huge hit’, Mr Khan said that he was encouraged by another visually-impaired runner to take up the sport in August 2022.
He began running with guide runners at the weekly Parkrun event and his confidence grew.
Mr Khan explained: ‘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.
‘While the eye may not see, the heart feels.’
Although Mr Khan initially began running simply as a way to improve his mental health, he is now keen to take on his first half marathon after three months of training.
Mr Khan said: ‘Running with Terri and focusing on the London Landmarks Half Marathon has given me a new passion for life after losing my sight.
‘The whole community has been so supportive and I’m grateful to the Rock n Road Runners, all of the Jersey guide runners and even the people in the street who shout encouragement as it has all helped me through some tough times.
‘Of course, I’m very excited to take on this challenge and raise funds for a cause that’s close to my heart. I am currently in the process of applying to receive a guide dog of my own so the generous donations all have a direct impact.’
Ms O’Donoghue added: ‘I’m proud to be running alongside Mr Khan and supporting him in this journey. Guide Dogs UK is an incredible organisation that helps people with visual impairments lead independent lives.
‘I hope our efforts will help raise awareness and funds for their important work and soon Sha will have a guide dog of his own.’
The duo were set to jet off to London this morning in time for the half marathon tomorrow, and Ms O’Donoghue will be facing her own fear of flying on the way to the start line.
Mr Khan joked that the tether that is usually used by Ms O’Donoghue to guide him while running will instead be used to stop her running away from the plane and ‘make her feel safe’ while flying.
Ms O’Donoghue said: ‘If Sha can keep being positive as he pushes through physical and mental barriers then I can certainly do the same.’
The pair explained that their training – which began in January – had gone well so far.
‘We completed all the runs that we were supposed to, and we’ve had no injuries so far,’ said Ms O’Donoghue.
They are aiming to complete the half marathon in around 2 hours and 15 minutes, but admitted that a lot depends on how it goes on the day.
Mr Khan said: ‘My biggest worry is that there’s going to be a lot of people who won’t be aware that I am visually-impaired and it therefore won’t be safe for me.’
‘At least we’ll all be running in the same direction,’ Ms O’Donoghue joked. ‘Sha doesn’t see this but when we are training on the avenue, people will just be walking towards us looking down at their phones and don’t move out of the way.’
Despite the possible challenges, Mr Khan and Ms O’Donoghue are both looking forward to race day.
Mr Khan recently helped out at the Hospice to Hospice half marathon by handing out water bottles, which he said made him even more excited for his own run.
‘It was so motivating,’ said Mr Khan. ‘I was so reassured to see people of all abilities participating. It really reminded me that running is for everyone.
‘You don’t have to be a super athlete to enjoy running, you just have to have the right mindset.’
After he completes the half marathon this weekend, Mr Khan does not want to rest and has a ‘summer of running’ planned this year.
He is aiming to complete another half marathon in June and then the full Jersey marathon in October.
– Sponsor online at justgiving.com/fundraising/sha-and-terri