LONDON (AFP) — A blind British man is to run seven marathons on seven continents in the space of seven days next month to raise money for guide dogs, he said on Tuesday.
Dave Heeley, 50, will start his extraordinary challenge on the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic at one minute past midnight on April 7 before flying to the Chilean capital Santiago for the second stage the same day.
Accompanied by his running guide Malcolm "Mad Mac" Carr, Heeley will then run marathons in Los Angeles, Sydney, Dubai and Tunis before finishing his odyssey in the London Marathon on April 13.
"I know we're going to be exhausted by the end, but I'm determined to run through the London Marathon because that medal will be a little bit special this year," Heeley, who has clocked up hundreds of miles in training, told AFP.
Heeley, from West Bromwich in central England, was born with an eye disease and lost his sight completely at the age of 16, curtailing a keen interest in running.
He began competing again at the age of 40 when he heard of someone doing the London Marathon to raise money for the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.
He has run marathons seven times in the past decade, including London six times, and has already raised 200,000 pounds (260,000 euros, 400,00 dollars).
The seven-marathon challenge will take his fund-raising for guide dogs into another dimension with an estimated one million pounds pledged by individual and corporate sponsors.
Heeley said: "Hopefully it'll bring funding in for years to come. It's a lovely feeling to think it'll keep trickling in."
He and his running partner will be accompanied by a four-person support team, although his own guide dog - Wicksie, a three-year-old German Shepherd cross -- will not be making the trip.
"He's stopping at home, warm under the radiator. When I told him about what I was planning, he said 'blow that'."
Despite the gruelling challenge to come, Heeley said he was most concerned about the travelling.
"I'm not the greatest flyer in the world, so that is the thing that's worrying me the most. I'm never happier than when the plane wheels touch the ground," he said.
"But once I've done the marathons I think I'll have no trouble sleeping on the plane.
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