It is the sixth year of this popular event which has begun to be widely recognised in the running world. In 2018, it attracted runners from as far afield as Dorset, Lancashire, Pembrokeshire and Yorkshire and, since it began in 2014, athletes have travelled from Mexico, Latvia and China to take part. This year, organisers at The J’s Hospice are delighted that a Paralympian from the London 2012 games will be at the start line, ready to take on the 26.2-mile course.
Simon Goodall, 50, was part of Team GB’s goalball squad and has chosen to run his first ever marathon in Chelmsford.
Goalball is a sport designed for people with a visual impairment. Players take part in teams of three on an indoor court, using a ball containing bells which they must throw into the opposition’s goal to score. Marathon running and goalball are two very different disciplines. Simon explained why he is keen to take on this new sporting challenge in Chelmsford.
“I have a condition called retinitis pigmentosa which causes the rods and cones on the surface of the retina in my eyes to disintegrate. I’ve completely lost my sight in the last four years.
“I went to a boarding school for the visually impaired and I used to run there. When I was in my 20s, I got into goalball instead and became part of Great Britain’s squad in the early 1990s. I stopped competing for a while but returned to the GB squad in about 2006, taking part in the World and European Championships as well as the 2012 Paralympics.“
Simon’s last major competition was the European Championships in 2013 and then he decided, as he was getting older, to bow out from the sport.
“I’d built up a lot of muscle to compete at international level, so I began to train down on weights and increase my cardio in the gym. I became interested in running again so I started looking for guides who I could go out running with, starting with Park Runs and then building up to longer distances.
“I decided to take up marathon running to raise awareness and consciousness by demonstrating to the wider population that losing your sight is not the end of the world.“
Simon, from Hatfield in Hertfordshire, is currently running forty miles each week. He has completed eight half marathons since last September and the Chelmsford Marathon will be his first full marathon.
It starts in the city’s High Street, before heading out along tarmac paths and roads through the surrounding countryside and pretty villages of Essex before returning to Chelmsford and the finish line in Central Park. The friendly, supportive atmosphere and this mix of urban and rural scenery appeals to both new and experienced distance runners.
Simon added, “I am looking forward to it and feeling incredibly nervous and excited. I will be running with a guide called Richard Fine. I’m staying fit and mentally positive and the adrenaline will keep me going – it would be great if I could finish in less than four hours.“
The J’s Hospice is the only charity in Essex that supports young adults with life-limiting conditions and their families in their own homes and in the community. The money raised at the Chelmsford Marathon will help The J’s to provide a range of specialist services that they really rely on – including tailored nursing and emotional care, advice and social activities – so they can live life to the full, however short.
Simon is happy to support the charity. “I will be collecting sponsorship and donations for The J’s Hospice as it’s a very good cause. I am particularly impressed by how it helps these young adults to take part in activities that they might otherwise miss out on because of their condition or disability.”
If you would like to sponsor Simon, please click here to go to his online sponsorship page.
When asked what advice he would give to people who are new to sport and may, like him, be taking on their first marathon in Chelmsford on 20th October, Simon says, “I tell people to be single-minded, don’t listen to negativity and shoot for the stars. You don’t know what you can achieve – so push yourself and be the best that you can be. That’s particularly true for disabled people because we have to put in so much effort to fulfil our sporting dreams.
“I ask people to look at me but don’t judge me – I am blind, I can run and I’m hoping the Chelmsford Marathon will be my first marathon of many.“
The Chelmsford Marathon is kindly sponsored by the professional services firm, Aon.
If you want to sign up for the Chelmsford Marathon like Simon – or take part in the 3K Family Fun Run on the same day – online registration is open now. Please click here [https://www.havenshospices.org.uk/events].