Oxfordshire blind veteran emotional and proud following London Marathon

A blind veteran from Oxfordshire completed his second London Marathon this weekend in support of Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for vision-impaired ex-Service men and women, which he says rescued him after he lost his sight.

Naz Niner, 47, and from Abingdon, completed the course in six hours and 35 minutes alongside his guide runner Richard Phinbow, who works for Blind Veterans UK at their Centre of Wellbeing in Rustington, West Sussex.

Army veteran Naz took part in his first London Marathon in 2021. He says:

“The London Marathon is one of our country’s biggest sporting events and I always wanted to take part in it. When Richard contacted me to ask if I wanted to do it again this year, I thought ‘why not’.

“It was hard and at 13 miles, I really started to struggle but I managed to keep going. I was almost walking at the end, but I made it.

“Richard is a fantastic guide, he knows me well and knows when he can push me and when not to, along with the atmosphere, he got me around the course on Sunday.

“He is my eyes and tells me where obstacles are that I can’t see for myself such as kerbs, people stopping suddenly in front of me or bottles on the floor.

“I was very emotional when I crossed the line, I collapsed onto my knees. It was a mixture of pure exhaustion and the pride of my huge achievement plus knowing I hadn’t let down all those who had donated and helped me to raise money for such a great charity.”

Naz joined the Army when he was 20-years-old and served with the Royal Logistics Corps in Abingdon, Sandhurst and Colchester. He also spent six months on a NATO peacekeeping mission in Kosovo following the war there, for which he received the NATO Medal for Kosovo.

In 2017, two years after Naz left the Army he was diagnosed with glaucoma following a routine eye test. He says:

“I was devasted, my first thought was that I wouldn’t see my two young daughters grow up. On top of that, I lost my independence as I could no longer drive and I became isolated as my social life had largely been around sport, I loved football and athletics and wasn’t able to train with my friends.

“Blind Veterans UK rescued me; I dread to think where I would be now if it wasn’t for the charity. They gave me back my confidence and showed me that I could still take part in sport. I’ve joined them for adrenaline weekends, fitness weeks, driving events and shooting.

“I never thought I would be able to take part in the London Marathon, but with the support of Blind Veterans UK, I’ve been able to achieve it for the second time and I am motivated to take it on again next year.”

Naz is just £24 away from reaching his £250 fundraising target. If you would like to support Naz please visit his Just Giving page: justgiving.com/page/naz-niner

You could join Naz for next year’s London Marathon. Visit the Blind Veterans UK website to find out more: blindveterans.org.uk/londonmarathon

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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