Hampshire blind veteran runs London Marathon number nine alongside loyal guide runner

A blind veteran from Hampshire completed his ninth London Marathon this weekend with his trusted friend alongside him as his guide.

Andy Leitch already had five London Marathon medals hanging on his wall before he invited friend Wayne Lakin to join him as his running guide.

The two men, both aged 49 and from Aldershot, run in support of Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for vision-impaired ex-Service men and women, which Andy says gave him back his confidence after losing his sight.

Andy joined the Army in 1992 and spent 19 years with the Royal Logistics Corps. It was at the age of 37 that retinitis pigmentosa caused a gradual decline in his sight and forced him to retire early from the Army.

In 2011, Andy discovered Blind Veterans UK who have been supporting him ever since.

Andy says:

“The charity has invested a lot of time over the years to help me rebuild my life when I’d lost all hope.

“When I first came to the charity, I was feeling sorry for myself, but they made me realise what was possible and gave me the confidence to start doing physical activities again and get back to work.”

The pair’s first London Marathon together was actually run virtually in 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Wayne says:

“I had never run before in my life; Andy and I were sat watching the rugby when he asked if I fancied doing some running with him and that was how it started.

“It means a lot to me that Andy and his wife put their trust in me to guide him. The first time was nerve wracking, but we talk and communicate the whole way and guiding him comes instinctively to me; it’s my job to look after him.

“I run with my arm behind Andy and grab hold of his top if I need to. Andy can only see forward; he has no peripheral vision. I therefore am the eyes for us both and I need to warn him about changes in surface, any lamp posts or road signs, kerbs, and during the marathon bottles on the road.

“I’m always absolutely exhausted when we finish; not only have I run a marathon but I have been looking everywhere constantly and being the eyes for us both.

“Running with Andy has 100% opened my eyes to his daily challenges. I’m blessed to know Andy and to be able to assist him.”

Andy and Wayne finished the marathon slightly quicker than the previous year. Andy says:

“I never have a time in mind, I just aim to start and finish.

“I was told I would never be able to run, but I’ve proved people wrong and now have nine medals to prove it. Those of us with a visual impairment should never be written off, we can live full and active lives.

“Having Wayne running next to me has become effortless, I know I’m in safe hands and trust him to get me round in one piece.”

As well as supporting his friend, Wayne also feels honoured to be able to help others like Andy. He says:

“It’s amazing to have the opportunity to raise money for other blind veterans. I do this for Andy, who is a top fella and a huge inspiration, but I also do it for all blind veterans.

“In September, Andy has encouraged me to take on the London to Brighton Cycle. Andy did it two years ago with his son, but this will be my first time and my first time on a tandem bike!

“This will be a new challenge, something completely different but whatever Andy wants to try, I will be by his side. His can-do attitude has certainly rubbed off on me.

“Let me get over the weekend’s marathon first though, and then we’ll dig out the bike and get training.”

If you would like to support Andy and Wayne and help them reach their £1,000 target please visit their Just Giving page: justgiving.com/page/andyandwaynelondon24

If you are inspired by Andy and Wayne and want to take part in the London to Brighton Cycle please visit Blind Veterans UK’s website: www.blindveterans.org.uk/londontobrightoncycle

Blind Veterans UK supports thousands of blind veterans across the country, but knows there are many thousands more who still need its support to rebuild their lives after sight loss.

If you, or someone you know, served in the Armed Forces, including National Service, and are now struggling with sight loss, then please get in touch. Call 0800 389 7979 or visit blindveterans.org.uk/gethelp

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