Ahead of this year’s TCS London Marathon, sports retailers Wiggle and New Balance have teamed up with the Royal Society for Blind Children (RSBC) to bring first-of-their-kind braille banners of support to the world-famous event.
Thirty-five vision impaired and blind runners are set to take on the challenge on October 2 alongside their guides, while hundreds of others will be racing in support of charities for blind and vision impaired beneficiaries.
With London’s scenic surroundings and famous supporters often credited for keeping the race’s runners going, the challenge is only heightened for those with a vision impairment who cannot take in their surroundings. This year, messages of encouragement will line Miles 20 and 23 of the marathon course in braille form, so vision impaired runners can quite literally feel the support of the spectators.
Located on the left-hand side of the barriers, guide runners will be encouraged to gradually move the vision impaired runners over to the left of the course as they approach Miles 20 and 23, so that they can feel the braille as they pass.
Widely regarded as one of the hardest parts of the race, Mile 20 – at Poplar High Street – marks the distance at which most runners will cap their training before the big day. In a bid to give them one final push when they need it most, the braille banners will stretch the course of the mile and will reappear at Mile 23 on Lower Thames Street, where earlier this year RSBC opened its Life Without Limits Centre for blind and partially sighted children and their families.
In recognition of the partnership and the brilliant work carried out by RSBC, Wiggle has made a donation to the charity which will help provide emotional and practical support for two families for a whole year. RSBC’s specialist team provides tailored support to blind and partially sighted children, young people and their families, helping them develop the skills, confidence and resilience to deal with challenges and live a life without limits.
Huw Crwys-Williams, CEO at Wiggle, said: “At Wiggle we’re inspired by the everyday athletes and go-getters of the world – we’re simply here to fuel them. By partnering with New Balance and our extraordinary charity partner RSBC, we hope to create a special moment for vision impaired runners taking on this amazing challenge.”
Samantha Matthews, Senior Marketing Manager UK & Ireland at New Balance, said: “Our goal at New Balance is to help others achieve theirs. We aim to help all athletes and communities tackle their pursuits with confidence – and go the distance with them. Everyone should feel included on race day and that’s why we’re excited to support the visually impaired runners of this year’s TCS London Marathon, by providing accessible motivation and support through the toughest miles of the race.”
Shalni Sood, Director Of Philanthropy at The Royal Society of Blind Children, said: “We were delighted to partner with New Balance and Wiggle to represent and inspire vision impaired runners at this year’s marathon. It’s great to see a more inclusive and welcoming approach – the banners are a great example of this! We would love to encourage more organisations in the sports industry to actively support the participation of vision impaired people. We hope to see more of the same in future!”
Header image: RSBC London Marathon runner Ruby Brown. Credit: Simon Jacobs