Blind runner Matthews to run London Marathon

LAUREN PRIESTLEY
Last updated 05:00 09/04/2014
Matt Bailey and Rob Matthews
WORKING TOGETHER: Matt Bailey and Rob Matthews have been training together for three years.

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Blind runner Rob Matthews will represent New Zealand at the London Marathon for the first time this Sunday.

The 52-year-old Aucklander lost his sight more than three decades ago and is originally from England where he ran at a competitive level for 23 years before emigrating  in 2006 to be with his Kiwi wife, Sarah.

Matthews, who runs with a guide, hopes to complete the marathon in less than four hours and will be racing with a former running partner from London.

He tore a hamstring in January and has only got back into training in the last fortnight with guide Matt Bailey.

The pair run with a piece of rope attaching them at the wrist.

Matthews hopes the late training burst won't hinder his performance

''You really should show the marathon more respect but I have been running for a good 31 years before this.

''It's a real shame I got injured before doing this race but I'm just going to get around in the best shape I can.''

Matthews was born with retinitis pigmentosa, a hereditary condition that causes progressive vision loss, and his last memory of himself is as a frightened teenager staring in the mirror.

He started running the year after he lost all of his sight and set his first world record six months later.

He has broken more than 20 since and has also won 29 international golds for running, cycling and triathlon.

He represented New Zealand for the first time in the 2009 World Paralympic Triathlon Championships in Australia and won a silver medal.

''Running has given me back my life. It proves to me that I am as good as any sighted person,'' he says.

Matthews works as a motivational speaker and sports massage therapist and says his disability has not stopped him from doing anything he wants to do.

''From the beginning I just had this fire in my belly, or it was more of a spark, really. I just wanted to go into running.

''Losing my sight gave me the choice of sinking or swimming.

Bailey has been training with Matthews since 2010 and says he has to be at the top of his game to keep up.

''It's not my race - it's Rob's. I can't have a bad day.

''Most of Rob's times would be far superior to most good, sighted runners. He is in the top percent of the sighted runners, let alone blind runners.''

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- East And Bays Courier

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