Saturday, 31 December 2016

The Year That Was

It is New Year’s Eve again and once more I am in a pair of Disney pyjamas reflecting on the year that was. Perhaps some things are destined never to change. However, each year we face the unknown and learn that little bit more about ourselves, other people and life in general…

This year has taught me so much about myself. I know at the beginning of the year I was feeling quite low. When reading my blog back, I was surprised that a black cloud hung over my writing as well. It may not have been apparent to a casual reader, but knowing myself better than anyone, I sensed the lack of sparkle and drive in my posts. It wasn’t until the summer that I noticed a marked difference. It was as if I had a giant jigsaw puzzle in January with no idea where to start, then all of a sudden come July, I didn’t find one corner piece, but all of the corner pieces and everything just started to fit together.

July was a poignant month. Birthday celebrations with true friends, a long awaited PB over 100m, racing in GB kit in front of 50.000 people at the London Anniversary Games and training for a job that I not only love because it is varied and stimulating, but that fits perfectly into my lifestyle. These four instances have made the second half of 2016 worth living and I mean that whole heartedly. As this year draws to a close, I am feeling genuinely positive about 2017. I have discovered I am a strong person. I may get knocked down, but there is no way that I am staying there forever.

A couple of other bits to note about the year: I joined the 21st century and got an iPhone! How I ever managed to function without one before, I will never know. I also got a Fitbit, technology may just be a wonderful thing after all. The final mention needs to go to my partner in crime, Calvin. He decided to wrap 2016 up in memorable fashion by spewing up in my bedroom whilst I was out at the gym earlier. Demonstrating his Labrador logic, he helpfully re-consumed 95% of the contents! Yuck!

It hasn’t even started yet, but already I am feeling a little smug about the year ahead. It is going to be full of new adventures and achievements of that I am certain. Now I have started that jigsaw puzzle, I need to finish it. I was listening to my beloved Westlife the other day and a lyric grabbed my attention and is going to be my ethos for the year ahead. ‘If you believe the wonder of a fairy tale, you can take the future, even if you fail’.

If you are reading this, thank you. Thank you for taking an interest in my life. I hope 2017 provides you with a happy ever after…

Monday, 28 November 2016

Lucky 7

Calvin and I have been a partnership for seven years this month. I cannot express enough how incredibly lucky I feel to have him as not only my Guide Dog, but best friend and housemate. We all know that Calvin isn’t a paw perfect worker, yet he does some outstanding work when I most need him to. I can rely on Calvin to help me out at times where I am too proud to call my trusty parents for assistance when I have somehow managed to lose my way.

Having just light perception in my left eye makes navigating tough. I can’t see shapes, colours or even shadows. If I’m out at night, I may see a flash of light from a car’s headlight or if I’m looking really hard the light on a lamppost. People with residual vision are lucky. To be able to see a building as a blob or a white splodge signalling a door is definitely useful and shouldn’t be taken for granted. To be able to have some visual stimulation as you walk enables you to keep a focus. All I have are my ears, nose, feet and Calvin the dog who finds leaves wondrous and spits out rotten apples in exchange for a treat at our front door. My point is guiding someone with no useful vision is a much harder job than guiding someone who can see even a tiny little bit. Calvin has managed to do this demanding task for seven whole years, longer than some Guide Dogs manage to work for and he is showing no signs of slowing down. I live in awe of his abilities, understanding and affection.

Most days of the week I participate in some sort of sporting activity. This could be a simple swim, exercise class, Goalball, track or gym session. Either way, I spend a lot of my time feeling not just tired, but exhausted from the constant exertion. The combination of fatigue and having no useful vision often results in me switching off as I walk with Calvin. I sometimes cross roads without realising or drift round a corner taking me off route. By the time I have regained a focus, I can feel hopelessly lost even if I am actually only a short distance from where I need to be. Sometimes my surroundings don’t feel or sound quite right and I accidently encourage Calvin to go off route. It is a frequent nightmare and I kick myself every time I do it. Making these minor and major mistakes come back to haunt me too, as Calvin remembers them and assumes I may want to re-visit the places we have been.

I rarely leave my house without my Trekker Breeze, so when I do get lost I can attempt to find my way again. However, there have been times where the Breeze is not much help. For example, earlier this year when I pressed the ‘where am I’ button, it announced that I was on the M1 motorway! A feeling of utter panic quickly followed even though there was no way that I had stumbled on to the motorway. The Breeze wasn’t being completely inaccurate as I was near a motorway bridge that runs very noisily above my head on one of my regular routes causing me to feel disorientated each time I am near it. It blocks my hearing, which I rely heavily on for spatial awareness.

Whilst I am trying to work out how best to proceed, Calvin takes the opportunity to munch on some nearby grass. Nobody is around and I need to get to an appointment. I literally didn’t know whether to turn left or right. Having a cautious feel round with my feet and hands I come across some sort of railing, which is either blocking us from the pavement or protecting us from the very busy road. I am totally confused, tired and stressed, yet I know I can’t stand there forever. I can feel Calvin tugging at the lead as he stretches to chew on more grass. They say dogs are meant to recognise when a person is distressed. At this moment in time, mine appeared completely oblivious. Irritated by Calvin’s lack of empathy, I snapped at him to find the way and well that’s exactly what he did. I couldn’t be sure that he was taking me the right way, but at least we were moving. He guided me to a crossing, crossed without stopping in turn making cars horn crazily at me. The extra noise really wasn’t helpful. After removing my heart from my mouth, I made Calvin ensure he found the crossing box for me prior to crossing the next road, as we were now in the middle with cars racing in front, behind and above us. I am not sure, but I think we crossed a few more roads to make it across this dual carriage way. Why and how we were on the other side I still can’t work out, but we had never crossed over at this point before. Once over the other side, Calvin took a right with no instruction from me and shortly after the Breeze announced a road I recognised. Interestingly, Calvin was heading towards the location where my appointment was rather than turning left, which I now realised would have taken us back home.

On that day and many other similar days, Calvin is my hero. When he is lying on his back with his paws in the air like he just doesn’t care, clutching a ball as well as a soft toy in his mouth, I find myself thinking how does this dog do it. He acts like a muppet one minute then does something amazing the next. Without consciously teaching him, Calvin understands so many words and has learnt how to communicate with me in return. It is like we have a telepathic connection or I have developed a mothers instinct.

As I said before, I am extremely lucky to have Calvin as not only my Guide Dog, but best friend and housemate. I sincerely hope we make it to eight great years by which time he will be nearly ten, the age I have been told that they definitely want Calvin retired by. However, if he is healthy and willing to work, I’m going to fight to keep him as my Guide Dog for as long as possible.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016


I got a Fitbit Charge HR for my birthday, which means I’ve had it for about four months now. I requested that model as it was the cheapest Fitbit without a screen that measured your heart-rate. Whilst I like the sound of the more expensive models, Fitbit Blaze and Fitbit Surge, it would have been pointless getting one since the interfaces would not be accessible to me and I would therefore be unable to take advantage of the extra features. I did consider asking my parents for an Apple watch instead, which has the Voice Over screen reader inbuilt meaning I could access the watch to its full potential, but the price was too steep. My Fitbit Charge HR cost £100 and I’m very happy with its capabilities.

I say my Fitbit doesn’t have a screen, but in fact it does, just not one you can interact with. There is a button on the side of the watch and each time you press it, it displays different information, including the time, the amount of steps I’ve done that day and my current heart-rate. None of this information is accessible to me.

Setting up the Fitbit is also an inaccessible process, as you need to type in the code displayed on the screen in order to synchronise it to your smart device. However, once you are set-up there are tons of statistics at your finger-tips.

The App
The app itself is generally accessible. I am able to view the majority of information available with ease. The only feature on the app that isn’t accessible are the graphs that show progression or a lack of. This isn’t important, as Fitbit emails a weekly report and you are also able to view a breakdown of figures in number form in the app. When the battery level is low, Fitbit will again send an email to notify you, but this is visible in the app too. The battery lasts four or five days on average and takes about two hours to charge fully.

The daily recommended average is ten thousand per day and surprisingly, I find it quite difficult to reach the target on non-track days. I like trying to meet the goal and I still get a tingle of excitement when my Fitbit vibrates to inform me that I’ve managed it. Since having the Fitbit it has encouraged me to be more active.

The recommended amount is ten flights per day. This isn’t difficult to reach. I find the badge rewards quite fun, telling me things like I’ve climbed the height of a hot air balloon or I’ve walked the same distance as a marathon.

This is one of my favourite features. Every morning the first thing I check is how much sleep I got the night before. It lets you know how long you slept, how many times you woke up and how many times you were restless. I have learnt that I require at least eight and a half to nine hours sleep per night to be fully functioning the following day. It is a miracle if I sleep straight through and I appear to be quite a restless sleeper, which I put down to dreaming nearly every night.

Ok so this is another feature I love. At the moment my resting heart-rate is sixty-seven beats per minute, which is fairly rubbish for a so-called athlete. Embarrassingly, when I first got my Fitbit it was seventy beats per minute and it has only recently started to decline. However, it proves that winter training is working and I’m getting fitter. To further prove this theory, I have been able to see my average heart rate on the long runs I have been forced to endure, as it automatically recognises and logs when I’ve gone for a run, walk or exercised. When I first started my long runs my average heart rate was over one-hundred and sixty beats per minute. After a couple of weeks that decreased to one-hundred and thirty beats per minute. The heart-rate feature is also good to track and prevent illness. One morning I noticed my resting heart-rate had spiked from the previous day warning me that my body was working harder than usual, possibly fighting off an internal infection. I did feel sluggish that day and ensured I didn’t exert myself unnecessarily. After a couple of days my heart-rate returned to its usual status and I felt back to normal.

A useful feature on the Fitbit is that it vibrates when my phone is ringing. This is quite good when I’m out and about and my phone is in my pocket or handbag and I can’t hear it. You are also able to entre in manually your weight, water in-take and calories eaten. I don’t really bother with this stuff. For a bit of fun, if you have friends who have a Fitbit you can challenge them to see who can do the most steps in a week or other games. There are probably more features that I have yet to discover too. Personally, I find it all fascinating and definitely recommend purchasing a Fitbit Charge HR if you either want to get fitter or monitor your fitness.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Online Dating

In this day and age, if you are single, people’s default response is to urge you to go online. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, everyone does it and it actually works! For some people that is. I myself have two friends who met their respective fiancĂ©’s online and another friend who is about to move in with their partner who they also met online. But what is online dating like for someone like me? Well, in a nutshell an unpleasant experience that I won’t be in a hurry to repeat.

I spent six months on popular dating website Plenty of Fish or for those in the know POF. I chose it for a variety of reasons, firstly it was free, secondly one of my best friend’s had a very positive experience and thirdly the site is pretty accessible for a screen reader user. The app is also ok, but not as good as the main site on a desktop computer.

In six months of being online, I managed to go on let me just count them up, zero dates. There were a couple of males who suggested going out ‘some time’, but then they would simply vanish from the face of the earth one day. This was a common theme. You will have a conversation with someone for a week or so, then they just stop speaking to you for no apparent reason. The irritating thing is that you can see when they are online and blatantly blanking you. It seems to be acceptable to be rude online.

A good feature on POF is the block button. This was used frequently to block guys who were just after one thing and had no shame in asking up front. This made me question whether ‘honesty’ was really an admirable characteristic or not.

I’m not sure if my downfall was my profile. Do you drink? No. Do you smoke? No. Do you drive? No. Do you have children? No. What is your religion? Muslim. This is all before I reveal I have a disability. I chose not to state I was visually impaired in my profile. However, I did give little hints, such as ‘I enjoy walking my Guide Dog’ and had a picture of me with Calvin. I’m lucky that in photos I can hide my blindness. Generally, most people didn’t read your profile and messaged you based on your profile photo. For me this meant I received lots of messages from Asian men, which is fine, but when you’ve grown-up in a predominantly white area and your cousins call you a coconut (brown on the outside, white on the in) it means you struggle to connect with the majority of Asian males. Tecnically, I’m not even Asian as my Mum is from Mauritius and my Dad is from Kenya. Geographically that makes me African.

I tried to be open minded when talking to people and reading their profiles. Obviously, I couldn’t see their profile pictures, but POF tells you their hair, eye and skin colour, as well as their height and age. This enables you to create some sort of image in your head for evaluation. I wish it told me attributes like facial hair, piercings and tattoos, but you can’t have everything.

I spoke to hundreds of males online. Some messaged me first, others I messaged first. I was very careful, which was another thing that went against me. When people asked for my number I politely told them that I would prefer to keep chatting via POF until I got to know them better. Lots of guys didn’t like this and would move on to their next victim. My friends and family all knew I was online and if I did go on a date it was agreed that someone would be watching nearby. At the end of the day, I am a vulnerable individual no matter how independent I try to be.

Overall, online dating left me feeling deflated and undesirable. Therefore, I deleted my account and plan to explore other avenues in my quest for love. I’m glad I tried it and it is great that it works for some people, it just wasn’t designed for someone as unique as me. If you do try online dating, please stay safe.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Job Vacancy - Female PA

Female PA required to support visually impaired athlete with sporting activities, such as swimming and gym classes at David Lloyd Narborough.

No experience necessary
Car driver essential
Wednesday/Friday daytime
Aprox 2-4hrs per week
£8 per hour and 45p per mile

To apply please send CV and covering letter to:

Closing date: Tuesday 1 November 2016.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Rio Paralympics

So Rio 2016 has come to an end. Initially, I imagined my thoughts on the Paralympics would be very similar to my thoughts on the Olympics. However, the Paralympic experience for me was completely different. I guess because it is closer to home in the sense that whilst Athletics features in the Olympics it isn’t actually an event I could ever participate in.

It is terrible to say, but I wasn’t inspired by the Paralympics this time. Maybe it isn’t physically possible to be inspired over and over again. The concept of people overcoming adversity and achieving great things in sport isn’t something that is new to me. Don’t get me wrong, there were some amazing performances and acts of courage. They just didn’t feel relevant to me. This could be because we had a very limited number of visually impaired athletes competing, so very little visually impaired sport was televised. We had no Goalball teams, no blind football team, no S11 swimmers, which would be my classification and whilst I know we sent athletes in the Judo, I’m not sure if anyone managed to medal. Apologies if they did, but it must have passed me by. We did grab a handful of medals in the athletics, swimming and cycling from athletes who are mostly partially sighted. It makes me wonder how totally blind young people can aspire to represent their country at a Paralympics if they have no role model to follow. Personally, watching Tracey Hinton in Beijing was my first glimpse of what a totally blind athlete could do on an athletics track and later she became my rival.

Despite not seeing visually impaired sport, I did watch the Paralympics religiously every day and enjoyed it overall. The Channel 4 coverage was cringe worthy at times with stuttering presenters and their lack of knowledge, yet I know Channel 4 tried their best, which is all you can ask. I did surprise myself how much I know about not only Athletics, but other sports too when the presenters gave incorrect facts. It was common to see on social media incorrect classifications and facts too. To be fair the classification system is a tough thing to get your head around. I know the Athletics classes inside out and I’m reasonably familiar with the classifications in other sports. That’s because I’m involved in disability sport. For the general public including my parents, they find it confusing. They asked me what is the difference between a T34 and T54 athlete, as to them they both compete in wheelchairs. Also, in the swimming they were cheering the athletes with amputations because visibly to them they must be more impaired than someone with all four limbs. I noticed that the LEXI guide to classification wasn’t used much, as there was simply no time due to the amount of British performances that needed squeezing in.

The medals just kept on coming. 147 later and as a spectator I was a little bit bored with all of the winning. The medals didn’t feel as special compared to the Olympics especially when some people managed to collect three or four. In future I think they need to reduce the amount of events for certain classifications. It is a bit bizarre that some athletes are able to compete and medal over so many different disciplines. That isn’t possible to do in the Olympics, so it shouldn’t be possible in the Paralympics. I do know in the athletics that they took a fair few 200m races out so some athletes were unable to double up. This process needs to be continued on a class by class basis.

Reading back, this does seem to be quite a negative post. So to end on some positives…

Rio delivered. They got the crowds in and backed their athletes whole heartedly. When Brazil clinched the Bronze in the final swimming event, a relay of some sort, it brought a tear to my eye, as on classification points it shouldn’t have physically been possible. The crowd’s reaction was mind blowing. And I say I got bored of us winning all of the time, but 147 medals for Paralympics GB is an incredible achievement. Only China with a disabled population of a mere 65 million could beat us.

Next up Tokyo 2020. This last four year cycle I didn’t aim to become a Paralympian. Dare I say it, but I would love to be in Tokyo. I wish I didn’t love athletics so much, as I would consider doing a different sport to aid my chances, but the truth is the only sport for me is track and field. To get there as a sprinter would be a tall order. If I’m lucky we may have a relay team by then or I may discover a hidden talent for another event. It is always good to dream.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Baths, Boiled Eggs and Back Cracks

Taking baths, eating boiled eggs before training and having treatment on my back are just a few of the changes I made this year to enable me to run an illegal 13.52 and a legal 13.61 over 100m. My previous PB was 13.93 set in 2013 and it was a relief to start making progress again. Tomorrow I begin winter training, so thought I would take the time to reflect on my season before starting anew.

Whilst I am pleased with my progression, I had a real reality check this last week watching my event at the Paralympics. Fifteen out of the sixteen athletes who participated ran faster than my best time. The slowest time set was 13.99. Again I was left thinking, how on earth do these girls do it?! I train so hard, yet seem to be forever chasing. One of the most difficult things to accept was the re-classification of some T12 athletes moving down into my T11 class. This is something that could keep happening and pushing my classification on further. However, there is nothing I can do regarding that situation and can only concentrate on improving myself as a sprinter.

Yes, baths, boiled eggs and back cracks have contributed to my progression, as well as my nine pound weight loss. My friends all thought I was crazy when I told them I was trying to lose weight. That’s nine pounds less to drag down the track though. Also, I am managing to do drills that I literally physically couldn’t do before.

Each year I learn more and more about what it takes to be a world class athlete. For instance, I know I wasn’t able to lift heavy enough in the gym last winter, so there was only so much power I could expect from myself come the summer. This is something that is going to get fixed this time around.

I managed to run under fourteen seconds on six occasions this year demonstrating my ability to be more consistent as an athlete, which is a positive. I took just under four seconds off of my previous 200m PB, which is remarkable considering I don’t train for the event. I was given the opportunity to compete for Great Britain in front of fifty thousand people at the London Anniversary Games, which I was incredibly grateful for. These small achievements are what I need to remember moving forward.

Winter training is going to be tough. It is going to hurt. I am not going to enjoy it. However, I know it is going to be worth it.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Rio Olympics

I was excited for the Olympics to start of course, but I didn’t realise how hooked I would get. For two solid weeks my life revolved around the games. I’m already motivated when it comes to achieving in sport, I bleat on about it regularly enough on here. However, watching the Olympics inspired me further, encouraged me to run faster, aim higher and become stronger. I was in total awe of every single athlete competing on the greatest stage of all. So much so every time someone won a medal or just missed out, it caused me to well up. Even now when I watch the highlights, I can’t stop the eyes from filling. I’m not sure if it is old age or simple recognition and appreciation of the hard work every athlete puts in. They all spoke of the sacrifices they had made and it’s so true. As an athlete you feel you are constantly saying no to things because you need to train or compete or rest before training or competing.

Prior and during the games Rio received a lot of negative press to put it mildly. Many people argued that they shouldn’t have been awarded the games at all. Personally, I think this is unfair. They were very much a developing country when they were awarded the Olympics and it really shouldn’t be an event that only the rich are allowed to host. The Olympics is a place where all countries come together. This shouldn’t be in a magical land where no bad happens. Having the Olympics in Rio gave the games a touch of realism that I liked. Ok so the venues were half empty, but the organisers shouldn’t have made ticket prices so high. The Rio public came out in their thousands to watch the free events, such as the marathon. They are like Britain, a nation that loves sport and in my opinion deserved to host the games.

Britain had a great games winning more medals than ever before. This meant I ended up watching more sports than ever before and really enjoyed doing so. In particular the gymnastics and diving had me gripped. Ultimately, the athletics was the best of the rest though. It was a shame it was on so late meaning I recorded it each night, avoided the news and social media in the morning in order to gain the full experience. The athletics did not disappoint. Although I never expected to enjoy the men’s 400m final more than the men’s 100m final, which were on the same night. This year I didn’t doubt BBolt’s ability and superiority to the others. I knew the men’s 400m would be impressive, but seriously didn’t predict anyone breaking Michael Johnson’s World Record. That takes some class or at least a very fast South African called Wayde Van Niekerk. I was pleased that our Super Saturday stars from London 2012 were able to medal again, a feat that was by no means easy or a given.

Now it isn’t long before the Paralympics begin. Naturally, I will be watching.

Friday, 19 August 2016

TPT Guest Blog

Recently, I was asked to guest blog for Thomas Pocklington Trust. I wrote about how athletics has helped me deal with my sight loss in the hope that it encourages other visually impaired people to get involved in sport. You can read my post by clicking here.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Feeling Great at 28

At the moment I’m fairly satisfied with life. I had a great birthday. The day before I went to see an audio described performance of Mamma Mia at the Birmingham Hippodrome with some friends. Then the day of my birthday, I had lunch with my family and raced in the evening where I finally broke my 100m PB after three long years. I knew the PB would definitely be broken this year as I’m running better than ever, but it was good to get that monkey off my back. MyPB from 2013 was 13.93 and twice this year I got agonisingly close to it clocking 13.96 both times. Then on my birthday I managed to drop it down to 13.61, which was a time I knew I had in me and was so pleased to actually produce it. To prove it wasn’t a one off, last Saturday I ran 13.52 but the time is illegal, as the wind was just over the allowed limit. Nevertheless, with a few races left of the season, I hope to continue running mid 13s if not even better.

A few days after my birthday I was given the opportunity to represent Great Britain for the first time at the London Anniversary Games over 200m. It would only be my second 200m in four years and it is an event that I do zero training for. However, I couldn’t give up the chance to race in the Olympic Stadium in front of a crowd around fifty thousand people. With it not being my primary event, I was able to really enjoy the experience as I didn’t have any pressure. I have to admit the second 100m of the race felt like hell. The lactic really kicked in and I was seriously hurting. My previous 200m PB was 30.54 which I ran a couple of weeks before. I knew I would run faster than that and was happy with 28.91. In my head I really wanted to run twenty-eight something. To put my 13.61 and 28.91 into perspective, they would have got me 4th at the Europeans in June. Things are heading in the right direction, but I know they are just the beginning. I need to keep progressing and not wait another three years to break my PBs again.

I also have a new job, which I hope will be more successful than the one I had last year. It is a zero hour contract, but that works for me. I only want to work a couple of days per month so it doesn’t disrupt the athletics training yet gives me a boost to my income. I will be working as an Expert by Experience. Basically the job entails helping inspectors with their inspections of health and social care provisions. I have enjoyed the training and look forward to starting properly later this month.

On my last birthday I remember feeling a bit lost with life. This year I’m feeling more positive. I’m lucky to have a small number of close friends both sighted and visually impaired. I’m grateful to have found a job that will compliment my athletics career. I’m confident that my hard work is paying off and I’m going to reach my athletics goals. I’m privileged to have a supportive network around me. Ok so I’m not getting married or having babies anytime soon, but I’m living life and loving it.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

A Big Thank You

I’m pleased to report that my crowd funding campaign was a success. There was a period where I was convinced that I wouldn’t reach my £500 target then the next thing I knew it had not only been met, but smashed. I now have enough funds for approximately a year’s worth of sports massage/physio, which is going to be a massive help. It relieves me from a financial strain and will definitely have a positive impact upon my performance as an athlete and enable me to train and race at my best.

I’m so incredibly grateful for the generous donations and hope to do everyone proud in the future. A big thank you goes to-

Pam Banks
Matthew Clark
Eugene Creighton-Griffiths
Azam and Barbara Dassut
Emma Gaskin
Julie Grafton-Reed
Cheryl Gupta
Charlotte Fisher
Christine Huber
Thomas Norton
Sally Nutt
David Playfoot
Michael Thornton
John Turner
Julie Watson
Bridgid Weaver
Warren Wilson
People for Research

And a special thanks to VICTA Children and VISTA for promoting my project.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Be Part of the Journey

I have started my first crowd funding campaign in order to raise £500 to help pay for physio/sports massage costs. A part of me feels a bit cheeky asking for people to help support my athletics career, but I feel £500 isn’t too much of a ridiculous amount. Anyone who reads this blog knows how much athletics means to me and how I constantly strive to achieve my dreams. In an ideal world I wouldn’t have to seek support, but since I have to self-fund my athletics career there is no other way around it. Working part-time last year severely affected my health and I would turn up to training like a zombie. Focusing purely on my athletics this year has already enabled me to run better than I have ever done before. On Wednesday I dipped under fourteen seconds for the first time on a first run in far from pleasant conditions.

On Tuesday I watched my rivals compete at the European Championships and it filled me with motivation. There’s nothing I want more than to line up against them in two years time and fight for a medal. Based on my current form, I would have just missed out on the final by a tenth of a second (remembering the top four make the final in T11 events). Although it could be argued if I was in thirty degree heat on a mondo track, I could have challenged for a place. I’m so close yet so far from representing GB.

There are twenty-six days remaining on my crowd funding page and to date I have raised a respectable £280, which I’m extremely grateful for. However, if I don’t hit the £500 target in the time zone, I will receive absolutely nothing. There are some rewards on offer if you do donate. If you are feeling generous or know someone who is generous and would like to be part of helping a girl not only fulfil her dreams, but her potential, then check out my page here.

Athletics is my life. For me it makes being blind feel bearable, enjoyable and inconsequential.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Web Accessibility Campaign

A while back I was asked to guest blog for People for Research and their web accessibility campaign. They have now published my post. To read it just click here.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Gold Coast 2018

The Gold Coast will hold the next Commonwealth Games in 2018. Yesterday I was saddened to learn that there will be no Women’s T11/12 100m this time and in fact no female visually impaired athletics events at all. The Games boast that they will have more para-events than ever before with some classifications having an increased number of events they can participate in, which is great news for them. However, other classifications have been excluded altogether. Only a select number of para-events are included in the main competition and I guess in one respect I was very lucky to have had the opportunity to compete at the last Commonwealths in Glasgow. Nevertheless, on the eve of my 2016 outdoor season, I can’t help feeling disappointed. The Commonwealths was an amazing experience and one that I would have liked to have repeated. Not only for the enjoyment, but to see if I could have improved on my previous performance.

Looking ahead now, my focus has to be on the European Championships. Perhaps not for this year as selection is on Monday 16 May, which is very soon and leaves little opportunity for me to qualify. The next Europeans will be in 2018. I need to have two strong seasons prior to the championships to prove my capability. I have had the chance to represent England, but I have always dreamed of representing Great Britain too.

So far this year I have had a couple of promising run outs over 60m indoors. Tomorrow will be the earliest I have ever started my outdoor season. This provides plenty of races to look forward to between now and August. The main aim this year is to PB since I haven’t managed to do so since 2013. I have had a full winter, receiving regular treatment and I am feeling positive that this year will be one of progression.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Inspiring Partnerships

Recently, I watched a video about visually impaired skier Millie Knight and the relationship she has with her coach/guide Euan Bennet. The video was produced by The Bank of Ireland UK and is part of their Inspiring Partnerships campaign. Alongside the clip The Bank of Ireland UK suggests that there are six key ingredients needed for partnerships to flourish. These are: trust, communication, solving problems, mutual respect, common purpose and complementary skills. On Sunday 10 April I will begin my fifth outdoor season with my current Guide Runner Ryan Asquith. Motivated by The Bank of Ireland UK campaign, I thought it would be a good opportunity to analyse my partnership with Ryan based on the essential criteria above. Fingers crossed that it will reveal that we have a thriving partnership, which in turn will lead to some promising performances in this Paralympic year.

For some unknown reason I have no reservations when it comes to putting my trust in man or dog. Despite only having light perception in my left eye, I find running with a guide at full speed down the track one of the most exhilarating experiences. This is probably why I choose to compete over 100m rather than plodding along in a marathon. I have every faith in Ryan that he will push me to my limit, not cross the line before me (which would result in disqualification in a race) and alert me when to stop in good time. In training, I find it even more thrilling when I am able to run freely at speed, although the risk is higher as I am not always able to keep in a straight line and the track is littered with dangers, such as hurdles and cones. Nevertheless, whilst Ryan may not be attached to me and able to pull me out of harm’s way, I trust that he has a firm eye on me at all times and will instruct me where necessary. Naturally, we have had a couple of incidents, but there is never time to dwell or doubt. Accidents happen, you move on. If I don’t put my trust in Ryan then he is unable to help me reach and surpass my goals.

Both on and off the track, communication is vital for our partnership to succeed. From planning training sessions to race day. Prior to a race it is critical that both Ryan and I are honest about how we are feeling. If either of us have any misgivings that we don’t share then it is likely that we will fail before we have started. However, Ryan usually tells me afterwards if he was nervous before a competition in order to avoid increasing my own butterflies. During a race the communication is completely one sided. I say absolutely nothing, yet expect Ryan to speak to me all of the way down the track. He will provide me with important cues, such as when to change phases, distance run and body positioning as well as generally shout at me... with encouragement of course.

Solving Problems
All athletes encounter problems that require solving and in a way I am lucky to always have at least one extra person to help me resolve them. Although, sometimes the problem could be the person who is meant to help you. I would say Ryan and I both have fairly fiery personalities hence when issues arise we will discuss them in a pretty blunt manner. The advantage of this is that neither of us beat around the bush meaning we can get to the bottom of a dilemma more quickly without either of us being offended by the other’s lack of tact. I’m sure on-lookers are mortified by our exchanges, but it works for us and that is all that matters.

Mutual Respect
Often in society you hear of people with a disability being treated less equally to their non-disabled counter parts. Similarly, I have observed disabled people treating non-disabled people like slaves constantly demanding rather than kindly requesting assistance. Admittedly, it is difficult to find a balance when you do need a lot of help. Ryan and I train together four times per week for up to three hours at a time. There is no way that our relationship would work if either of us were disrespectful to the other considering the amount of hours we have to spend in each other’s company. Thankfully, Ryan is never patronising towards me and I hope that I’m not too needy. Ryan is not just my Guide Runner, he has become a friend. He even says himself that we are like family.

Common Purpose
Selfishly, I do athletics because I want to be the best I can. I do it for me, myself and I. Luckily for me, Ryan does athletics because he wants me to be the best I can. We both strive to represent our country. After competing at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games we both agreed that we are keen to attend another major championships. The experience was phenomenal. Therefore, every training session we do is to achieve that ambition.

Complementary Skills
Ryan has the knowledge and the working eyes. I have the potential and determination. Together we have the ability to be successful.

To watch Millie’s video just click here. For more inspiring partnerships, follow @Bankofirelanduk and #InspiringPartnerships on Twitter.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016


People always ask at what age do they retire? My answer is always between the ages of eight and ten. I can’t believe that Calvin, my Guide Dog has turned eight. We really have entered the final stages of our partnership. Although on his birthday, you wouldn’t have thought it as he was the most playful and energetic he has been in a long time. After the thousandth time of throwing his ball or toy my enthusiasm was wavering ever so slightly. Nevertheless, it was his birthday so I heroically persevered and kept launching until he eventually got bored. At times like that it is easy to forget that he’s nearing retirement.

We have our annual visit from Guide Dogs on 6 April and I’m hopeful that they will authorise for him to work for another year. The only concern health wise at the moment are his joints. Calvin’s bones click constantly as he runs up and down the stairs. On occasion if he’s been resting for a while his back legs stiffen too. Not that this bothers him, but it is a little jaw dropping when I hear him slip down a step as he attempts to charge up to the landing. All credit to him he powers it through. The vets started him on some joint supplements and I’m fairly sure they made a difference after about a week. Less clicking and no stair scares for a while now. The vet was surprised that they have had such a dramatic influence, but I’m convinced it’s not in my head. Yes, they are definitely working, on cue Calvin has come to join me upstairs to see what I’m up to and I didn’t hear a single click.

I would write more, only Calvin is nudging me to play, so I best go and entertain and make the most of his company whilst I still can.

The Calvin8r: Young at heart, works hard, plays harder.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Big Brother

Last Tuesday my brother turned thirty and my family and I spent three nights in Lanzarote to celebrate. I don’t think I’ve ever properly blogged about my brother before. Like me, he has Norrie’s Disease (also known as Norrie Disease), which is a rare genetic condition that primarily affects the eyes. However, whilst I gradually lost my sight, my brother has congenital blindness accompanied with severe learning difficulties. I know we are all individuals, but I have never met anyone similar to my brother before. His additional needs are quite unique.

In some ways he is quite able, as he can walk and is continent. These are two abilities my family and I are very grateful for. However, his comprehension and communication skills are extremely limited. He definitely understands more than he can express though. For example, my brother is unable to tell you his feelings. He can’t say if he’s feeling happy, sad or is in pain. Yet, he knows the words for a million and one food types and remembers the words to songs. Although, his renditions aren’t always accurate. They are making me smile just thinking about them. He can count to ten sometimes likewise if you ask him his name, age or where he lives he may answer correctly. Mostly, he repeats what you say instead. When my brother was younger it was a miracle if he spoke at all and when his voice broke it obviously confused him and he was quiet for a long time afterwards. He makes noises that we know means he’s happy, but scares the public as he is loud with it. Generally, when my brother speaks now he shouts and when he shouts he repeats himself over and over again. This can be really challenging. In more recent years he has become a little aggressive both to himself and others. At his worst he has drawn blood and lashed out. I think the worst that has happened to me is being grabbed in a head lock, pinched, scratched, generally grabbed and tapped very hard. Personally, even though I can’t see the danger coming, I’m pretty good at getting my brother to release me or move swiftly far enough away so I’m out of arms length since he can’t see to get up and chase me. When we get reports back that he’s injured one of his carers, I often wonder how they let it happen to themselves since they are professionally trained. If I can wriggle my way out of harm, how are they getting chunks of their hair pulled out?!

My brother has high energy levels and requires little sleep. He stays up late entertaining himself in his bedroom by walking around feeling, smelling and throwing things. He knows his way around my parents house unaided and goes to the toilet if he needs it. Nevertheless, he sometimes goes for no particular reason and then needs to be sorted out afterwards. He can’t wash, dress or properly feed himself. If he eats by himself with his hands he will eat at a hundred miles an hour. He needs fulltime care, which is tough on my parents especially now they are getting older. He is a strong fully grown man.

He has an interesting relationship with Calvin. I hadn’t had Calvin long when my brother accidently trod on him one evening. Calvin yelped out in pain, but funnily enough always moves now whenever he sees my brother coming. I’ve tripped over and trampled on Calvin numerous times, but he never moves for me. Calvin and my brother both have toys. Yet Calvin knows not to touch my brother’s ones. If my brother picks up one of Calvin’s toys by mistake, Calvin goes and tells someone by looking from the toy to an adult. He never goes and retrieves it himself. If my brother is relaxing on the sofa, Calvin occasionally goes and plonks himself in front of my brother wanting him to stroke him. My brother doesn’t realise Calvin is there, so Calvin helpfully nudges him with his nose. Then my brother will stroke Calvin, tap him, pull his ears, which Calvin thinks is great then rolls on to his back then we have to tell Calvin off for exposing his bits. He’s lucky that they are still attached! My brother likes to have a quilt when he’s on the sofa. I’m not sure how or when this happened, but Calvin now also needs a quilt when my brother has his. Calvin will put his head on my lap, look over to my brother and keep repeating the action until he has a quilt too. I think Calvin reckons he’s my brother’s equal. They are both Pisces I suppose.

It frustrates me when professionals suggest my brother has autism. Yes he likes routine, but just as much as the next person. It’s not as if he has a meltdown if his routine is changed, such as having toast for breakfast instead of porridge. Yes he may have shouted for porridge for an hour, but ultimately any food will do. My brother also knows that he can’t get certain things on holiday necessarily like having a hot chocolate before bed. This doesn’t bother him in the slightest. In fact, my brother generally behaves better on holiday. He loves the sunshine and will be quite content with sunbathing. He enjoys listening to the waves and playing with the sand on the beach. Similarly, he enjoys going on the plane. The vibrations and sound are weirdly calming for him.

Other quirks of my brother’s are that he takes his top off and a shoe without warning. We could be out shopping and he will be walking and somehow kick a shoe off. This can be done without us realising. The funniest was last year when we went to Fuerteventura. We were late for check in. So my mum, brother and I went to check in whilst my dad parked the car. My dad met us at security about half an hour later brandishing my brother’s shoe that he happened to find at the entrance. We had no idea my brother had been walking around with only one shoe on and clearly despite the multitude of passengers nobody had thought to pick up his shoe at any point.

Unlike many families with disabled children, my parents never send my brother to respite care. This is because he is unable to tell us what it’s like and whether he’s being treated fairly. It is also because respite centres don’t really do any activities with those in their care. My parents said they’d feel guilty knowing that he’s in an unfamiliar environment with strangers not being engaged, which I totally understand. Yet there will come a point when they won’t be able to care for my brother all of the time and difficult decisions will have to be made.

Growing up with a sibling who has a disability more severe than your own is probably quite a rare experience. Usually having a big brother means you have someone to fight with when you’re younger and a protector when you’re older. In my case despite being the little sister I am the protector. I’m very vocal when it comes to organising my brother’s care and I’m aware that one day it will be my full responsibility. In lots of ways my brother is lucky. He has a loving family and does fun activities day in day out never having the stress of adult life. Though it must be incredibly frustrating for him not to be able to verbally complain or express his emotions. It’s great that he does laugh hysterically and smile broadly on a daily basis. In turn he cracks me up all of the time with his ways and even knows how to embarrass me in public when he exclaims ‘Selina’s crying’ every time he hears a baby scream. The perfect big brother.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Be My Eyes

Be My Eyes is an app that has been around for a while now. However, I’m always late to the party and only got around to trying it out last week. It is an app that is designed for the visually impaired to enable them to borrow a pair of eyes on demand. It requires sighted volunteers to sign up and offer a few seconds or minutes of their time when needed. It is a pretty simple, but effective concept. The visually impaired person requests assistance via the app, then a registered sighted person will receive a video call. If the sighted person is busy, they can reject the call and the app will try another sighted helper. There are about sixteen times the amount of sighted people registered compared to visually impaired, so the likely hood of being contacted is quite slim. Nevertheless, if you are and available to answer, you can feel good that you have helped a visually impaired person out and the recipient will definitely be grateful of the assistance.

Luckily for me despite living by myself, I am in regular contact with sighted people. So I have plenty of opportunities to ask for a working pair of eyes to check things for me. However, last week it was fairly late and I needed to know what denomination a note was in my purse before I travelled the next morning. I was fairly sure it was £5 or £10, but couldn’t remember and had no other notes to measure it against. After a little reluctance, I decided to use Be My Eyes. I was a little hesitant at first, as I got phone phobia. There’s something a bit scary about talking to and trusting a stranger. I was worried that the person would be able to see my face, though a friend assured me that the app uses the back facing camera. I’m not sure why I wanted to keep my anonymity, perhaps I felt embarrassed that I needed help for such a basic task.

Anyway, once I remembered I needed to turn on my light (it is really bad that I live in the dark the majority of the time), I took the plunge. I was slightly alarmed when an automated voice started speaking to me, he was saying something along the lines that he was trying to connect me to the next available helper and there was some pleasant music whilst I waited. It couldn’t have been more than a minute before a young female answered with a West Country lilt. I put on my best phone voice, as you do and spoke very formally when asking what the denomination of my note was, crossing my fingers that it was actually in view of the camera. She politely told me it was £10, I thanked her and we said our goodbyes. It was so easy and somewhat refreshing knowing there was someone out there willing to give up part of their Friday night to help me.

Now I’ve gotten over my silly fears, I’ll certainly be using the app again in future. I do despise technology at times, but it really can be a wonderful thing.

I highly recommend Be My Eyes, search for it in the app store and sign up today.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Let's Take It Further

I have been blogging since 2008, which is a crazy amount of time. It is nice to have a record of the last eight years of my life even if some of my posts are cringe central. Blogging is something I find quite therapeutic and I have always said that I write just for me, but it is a bonus if other people enjoy my writing too.

At present, I post new blog posts on my Twitter account (@selinalitt). However, I feel it is time to take things one step further and have created a page for my blog on Face Book. I’ve noticed it’s the in thing to do these days. So if you want to keep up to date with new posts, just click here and like my page.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Death in Paradise

Death. Even just thinking about the word makes me wince. It evokes images of black, darkness, doom. Yet nobody can escape it. It is our final destination. There’s nothing scarier than the unknown. I believe this is why when we lose a loved one, it causes us to go on an emotional rollercoaster. All we can do is hold on tight and ride it out.

In September, my Grandma who I used to call Nanima died. It all happened so fast, we never got the chance to say goodbye. I loved the fact that she lived in Mauritius, one of the most beautiful countries in the world. However, it meant she was alone at the end.

Last month my mum and I travelled out there to put her affairs in order and to say a proper goodbye. It may sound strange, but despite the sombre situation, I still enjoyed my time in Mauritius.

When I visit Mauritius, I feel at ease and can fully understand why my Grandma chose to live there. Whilst I’m British born and bred, I can’t resist being absorbed by the Mauritian culture. It rained at some point everyday whilst we were there, but it was hot rain. It made me giddy sloshing through warm puddles in my flip flops. It made me smile when a car tooted its horn at me, something that’s been happening since my first visit when I was eleven. It makes me feel like a local, included. The fresh beach cuisine is amazing, simple food, spectacular food. The soft sand, the wistful waves. The buses that hurtle at crazy speeds. My mum’s aunties, my family that fuss over you, tell you you’ve put on weight then feed you until you’re about to explode. Happy, strong, loving and lovely ladies. The sega sound that instantly results in you jiggling your hips. The common carefree Creole language. The purity of the people. My heritage.

No country is perfect though. Tourism has significantly helped Mauritius to develop, but poverty is still rife. The education system appears to be exceptional, much tougher than in England. Nevertheless, many of the younger generation appear to be heading overseas to find work, as it doesn’t seem to be available in Mauritius, which is such a shame. The roads have improved remarkably, yet I know road traffic accidents are a major problem. The healthcare service is also obviously nowhere as near advanced as here. When we visited my Grandma at the cemetery, a surprisingly modern peaceful space, I asked my mum to read some gravestones out to me, as I was curious to know who my Grandma was near. I found it heartbreaking to learn that so many of the graves were occupied by young people. People in their teens, twenties, thirties, forties. My Grandma was one of the oldest at 78. That says a lot about the country, which I never really realised since my Great-Grandma lived into her nineties in Mauritius.

I look like my mum and she looks like her mum. This means I look like my Grandma. In fact my mum has always told me how alike we are and as I got older I began to notice the similarities between me and my Grandma too. I also possess many of my mum’s features, but I’m most like my Grandma. The things we had in common include: a needle phobia, weak bladder, taking vitamins, being healthy, mannerisms, always direct/blunt, good organisational skills, needing our own space, stubbornness, an interest in words, tough love, hatred for the cold and most importantly a strong will. My Grandma had a lot of knocks in her life, but she always got back up again.

My mum says it is unlikely that she will return to her childhood home again. I’m determined to go back one day, maybe with my own child so they can hopefully experience the Mauritian culture and treasure it as much as I do. I’m so grateful that my Grandma decided to live in Mauritius, otherwise I may have never got the opportunity to learn about and appreciate my roots.

Forever in my heart

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Reflections to Ambitions

I’m sitting here on New Year’s Eve in my Tinker Bell pyjamas contemplating life. A sprinkling of fairy dust allowing me to fly away to a Neverland feels like the perfect solution to life’s problems. However, it doesn’t solve them and even Neverland has its troubles. The thing about life is that we never exactly know what it’s going to throw at us, but we do know that it flings the good, the bad and the ugly. Our task is to embrace, battle and defeat. This year has proved to be one of my hardest yet.

The job didn’t work out, I didn’t run a PB for the second year running, my last remaining Grandparent passed away and somehow my relationship failed. These types of events leave you asking questions and have left me feeling a little lost.

Nevertheless, my year hasn’t all been doom and gloom. I have lived on my own for a year now. In that time I have only broken 1 plate, 1 bowl and 1 condiment shaker. Also, I’ve only dropped 2 dinners on my cream coloured carpet, the same amount Calvin decided to spew up too. My hoover has a few plasters on its cable that it chose to chew up one day and I seem to have misplaced a coaster causing my table to look slightly strange, but other than that independent living is going well.

Whilst paid employment let me down, voluntary work has kept me busy. Action for the Blind, Vista and Brownies have all enabled me to remain sane. I really enjoy giving something back to the world.

It feels wrong not to write a little note about Calvin, so I will. Apologies to Calvin fans as I didn’t write a blog post to mark our 6 year anniversary. We haven’t really had any adventures lately. Calvin is Calvin, my little bundle of sunshine, always ready to thrust a toy in my face. It’s impossible not to smile every morning when you’re greeted with such genuine excitement and affection.

As I write we are already 3 days in. Happy Olympic and Paralympic Year! Honestly, where have the last 4 years gone?! London 2012 is still so vivid in my memory. Rio 2016 is going to be incredible, I can’t wait to watch it all on TV.

I am not going to kid myself or others. Realistically I have no chance of being able to compete in Rio. In 2015 I ranked 25th in the World, which purely and simply is not good enough. My main goal this year is to run a PB. It needs to happen. I dedicate my life to athletics, surely I deserve that at least. If my indoor season goes well, then I think I will start to cross my fingers that I may be selected for the Europeans in July. Ideally, I would like to rank in the top 3 in Europe by the end of 2016. In 2015 I finished 5th in the rankings. I have my first indoor race on 9 January.

I am not sure what else I want out of this year. Sadly, my ambitious nature seems to be wilting. This is out of order. I need to get a grip, have more faith in my abilities and start aspiring to be someone again. I think everyone is capable of some sort of greatness. No, scrap that, I KNOW we are all capable of being great!

Let’s all have a great year...