Kerry Levins is a 41 year old who was formerly an Officer in the Royal Corps of Signals; he is married with one child. Kerry has been Registered Blind (Severely Visually Impaired) since 2005 and is a Blind Veterans UK beneficiary he is taking part in this year’s 100k Challenge.
“I have been asked to contribute something to the Blind Veterans UK blog in preparation for the 100k challenge, unaccustomed as I am to sharing my thoughts with an audience I have jotted down the first things that sprang to mind, No…Really, I did. I will apologise now for the words below, they are bound to offend someone, I usually can’t open my mouth without offending someone so why would the written word be any different!”
Having just been on BFBS being interviewed in relation to the 100k Challenge I figure I had better pull my finger out and write down something for the blog that Cat asked me to do a while ago.
So I’m going to complete the 100k challenge, now some people will consider that to be a bold and arrogant statement, a Blind Man stating that he WILL finish a challenge that would severely test any normally sighted person. But the point is I‘m not actually being arrogant (for once) I’m merely using positive language to try and kid myself into thinking that this is going to be a walk in the park. So I will expand on the questions that were asked during the interview.
Why am I doing this?
Simply put and in the words of George Mallory, “because it’s there”, in my own words; over the past few years Blind Veterans UK have shown me that in adapting to my sight loss it is not so much about what I cannot do anymore as what I can do. Every day I wake up and feel the need to prove to myself and to the world that I am capable of doing anything I set my mind to, for example just a few weeks ago I drove a Bentley Continental GT around Silverstone, something I have wanted to do since my sight started to fail, were it not for Blind veterans I would not have been given a chance like that. As a counter point I would say that I am not always successful in my undertakings. People handle sight loss differently, indeed no two people who lose their sight will have the same experience, it’s a very personal thing. I’d quickly like to share with you a shortened version of my experience.
The first emotion I felt was despair, strong word I know but there it is! In hindsight I think it was the realisation of what the future might hold and the fear which that brought with it, for example it’s the prospect of having to sit down to pee, which as a man is rather a demeaning thought, not the end of the world but it all chips away at your self-esteem. Other considerations are not being able to drive again and the inherent limitations of mobility that come with that and the last thing I will offer for you to consider is not being able to distinguish between joy and sadness on your child’s face, the prospect of was a bit depressing to say the least. I tried to lift myself out of the funk that I had slipped into which unfortunately translated itself into anger, because it is very difficult to be actively angry toward a situation this resulted in me being rather unpleasant to just about everyone I came into contact with, I think I have managed to apologise personally to everyone I may have upset during this time but if not just let me know.
Then two things happened at about the same time, I was accepted as a beneficiary by St Dunstan’s (Blind Veterans UK as was) and I was paired with a Guide Dog. Blind Veterans UK and the people I met Ray Hazan MBE and Paul Jacobs GM to name but two) showed me that above all else sight loss does not mean an end to anything it means that you have to do things a bit differently maybe slower and a bit more carefully but you can still do them, no matter what “they” are.
To summarise this point I will paraphrase the words of another, John Fitzgerald Kennedy; We do these things not because they are easy but because they are hard.
How is the training going?
Every morning of the working week, at about 04:30 Pedro (my Guide Dog) and I head out of the door and nip around the block, it takes about 40 minutes and covers 2.3 miles, not a lot but it’s all about spending time on your feet. Then at the weekend I do two longer walks this weekend for example I will be doing 3 and 3 ½ hours respectively on Saturday and Sunday, on top of this I get myself to the gym 3 or 4 times a week. The obvious, unasked question is “why 04:30?” The answer is simple, I am picked up to go to work at 06:20 which gets me there at 07:00 and misses the traffic and allows me to leave at 15:30 which gets me home for a little after 4pm allowing me to look after my daughter (she’s 8), which in turn means my wife can go to work in the evening without us having to shell out for Child-care! In addition there is no-one around at that time of day, which suits me down to the ground;-) To answer the other unasked question “are you doing it with your guide Dog” the answer is partly, yes, I intend to do the first leg 6 – 8 hours with him and then drop him off with my wife who will hopefully be meeting us!
What are you expecting to be the hardest part?
This is not my first long distance event, I have previously done the Nijmegen Marches, 40km per day for 4 days, the difference is it was 18 years ago and I could see properly, more recently last year I attempted the Wainwright Way, Coast to Coast Walk (192 miles from St Bees to Robin Hoods Bay) this didn’t end so well, truth be told I barely began, damaging myself on the first day which resulted later in that year in surgery and about 3 months in a cast. So what am I expecting to be the hardest part, honestly? The next 5 steps! But then if it was easy, anyone could do it!