Athletics: Blind walker set for challenge

Julie Woods trains for her fifth Dunedin half marathon on Sunday. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Julie Woods trains for her fifth Dunedin half marathon on Sunday. Photo by Craig Baxter.
She may be walking blind but Julie Woods is very clear about her destination for the Dunedin half marathon on Sunday.

The Maori Hill mother-of-two says completing the half marathon for the fifth time will be a great achievement to have under her belt.

Woods began losing her eyesight at the age of 18 to a juvenile form of macular denigration which left her partially blind.

At the age of 31 she lost her eyesight completely and had to begin looking at life a different way.

She said she would never have walked a half marathon if she had not gone blind.

"When I was lying in that hospital bed I could have never imagined that I'd be walking my fifth half marathon," Woods said.

"I was sighted but lazy."

She is anything but lazy these days, getting up at to 6am to walk 6km three times a week with sighted partner and close friend Jo Stodart.

A life coach, Woods said visualising the desired result was a rewarding way of dealing with life's obstacles.

"Often you don't look where you're going. Instead you get preoccupied with the path you're on.

"It's about the gain, not the pain."

Being a life coach was a rewarding job.

"I love seeing the potential in people and seeing them achieve. It's really rewarding.

"Getting people to think differently - that's the real skill that they take into their lives."

Woods has no intention to stop walking after the half marathon.

"Since I'm doing five, I'd have to look into doing 10. Bring it on."

She hopes to walk the full New York marathon before she turns 50.

"That will require a lot more focus and a lot more work, but I can do anything I set my mind to."

Woods said having a good sense of humour was an asset when taking on new challenges.

"If you can laugh at yourself then you're not afraid of making mistakes and looking like an idiot.

"To lose your sight may be considered a tragedy but to lose your sense of humour would be catastrophic."

Woods, partner Ron Esplin and Stodart can be spotted on Sunday sporting their bright pink walking outfits and matching bright pink walking rope, which allows Woods to be guided through the course.

"It's a tricky course, which is not ideal if you're blind, but what is?"

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