Published June 12, 2012
Chosen to be a torchbearer at the 2012 Summer Games, blind ultra-runner Simon Wheatcroft will carry the Olympic Flame running solo -- with only the guidance of his iPhone.
“If you had asked me three years ago if training alone was possible while being blind I would have said no," Wheatcroft told FoxNews.com. "Now I do it and ... I realize perhaps a lot of things are possible.”
The RunKeeper app uses the GPS tracker in the iPhone to track your runs, including duration, distance, pace, calories burned, and path traveled on a map. The app reads your current stats over your headphones as you run, and the virtual coach warns if you are ahead or behind pace.
“This allowed me to match distances with markers on my route. So I would pair a dip before a turn with a distance marker from RunKeeper," Wheatcroft explained.
Blind by the age of 17, the 30-year-old from the UK undertook the challenge of learning to run outdoors alone after he lost his guide runner to a distant college.
Only able to make out shadows, running on an open road and blindness seem like a pretty dangerous mix. But luckily Wheatcroft hasn’t hit or been hit by any colossal hardfalls, saying there were only “a few accidents along the way including running into posts that RunKeeper just couldn’t help me with.”
“We had no idea when we built the app that it could be used by a blind person," Jason Jacobs, RunKeeper developer told FoxNews.com. "He's truly an inspiration -- we're huge fans of him and what he has been able to accomplish.”
Wheatcroft primarily sticks to the same six-mile loop he has memorized, running always with a gait that keeps his feet very close to the ground. But he has no worries about navigating the Olympic path on June 26, 2012.
“It's a very simple road route, so I could easily learn this route by running it once,” he said.
Family, friends, and supporters will be there to cheer Wheatcroft on as he makes the inspiring journey through the small English village—and thanks to the RunKeeper app, anyone can join in the excitement by tracking his run using the “watch live” function. This real-time map locater also lets his wife and friends keep tabs while he is out running alone.
The torchbearer is currently earning a psychology degree at Sheffield University, and says it was his belief in himself and confidence achieved through running on his own that prompted him to begin competing professionally in ultra distance running.
“Belief in yourself gets you a long way. Don’t achieve what someone believes you are capable of, achieve what you believe you are capable of,” he said.