'Going blind brought me out of my shell'

Hannah Pascoe (centre) is helped by guides Rachel Grunwell and Greg Boyd at last year's Rotorua marathon. Photo supplied.
Hannah Pascoe (centre) is helped by guides Rachel Grunwell and Greg Boyd at last year's Rotorua marathon. Photo supplied.
The marathon, they say, is 20 miles of ability and six miles of truth, but for Invercargill's Hannah Pascoe, there is never any doubting her ability to conquer the distance.

Pascoe is not only an inspiration to those with a disability, but to many able-bodied sportsmen fearful of failure. On Sunday, she will contest her 13th marathon in the Cadbury Dunedin event between the Royal Albatross Centre at Taiaroa Head and Port Chalmers.

She was born with congenital glaucoma and her retina detached six and a-half years ago, gradually causing her to go blind over the following 12 months.

''It was a case of having to learn to do everything all over again,'' she said.

''You basically have to learn how to walk again. And walk before you can run.''

Going blind gave Pascoe a new perspective on life. Before that, she had not considered any sporting activity.

''Going blind brought me out of my shell.''

She kick-started her running when she thought riding a tandem bike in Invercargill's City to Surf felt too slow and not much of a challenge at all, so decided she would run it the following year, and loved the feeling of freedom.

''There is something about having your two feet on the ground moving. Running gave me that freedom.''

She fronted up for the half marathon section of the Cadbury Dunedin event in 2013 as a precursor to her first full marathon in New York , which she said was amazing.

''If you can imagine 50,000 runners, basically the population of Invercargill, competing and the population of New Zealand lining the course in what is pretty much a 42.2km street party.''

Pascoe said that although she finished, she had carried a stress fracture throughout her run, so had to return to the New York event the following year to run what was her second marathon.

''That's when I caught the running bug.''

Since then, Pascoe has made countless friends through marathon running, competing in such high-end marathon events as Motatapu, Christchurch, Rotorua, Wellington's Five Bridges, Auckland and the recent Gold Coast Marathon.

For running guides, Pascoe draws on the support of Achilles New Zealand, an organisation which supports people in sport with disabilities.

But if there was one marathon she would not recommend for a blind person to run, it would be the Motatapu event, as it was technically challenging with a lot of obstacles.

On Sunday, Pascoe has recruited the aid of four first-time guides, but said while she was quite relaxed about it, it was a matter for them to feel comfortable and believe in her ability.

''I just have to run. So I have the easy part.

''Guiding is like driving a car, but without wheels. Your arm is the steering wheel.''

Pascoe plans to finish in a time of around 4hr 30min.

She will be part a marathon field of about 200 competitors, and part of an estimated 1800 taking part across the marathon, half marathon and quarter marathon fields.

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