June 2018 2I went to see Blind Dave Heeley give a talk in Bournville, hosted by the lovely Bournville Harriers running club (but with plenty of room for friends) back in June 2018. I already knew about him, the famous West Bromwich based blind runner, always running for charity with a guide runner, and I’d shouted out to him during races as he passed me or gone the other way on an out and back. His talk was a riot, down-to-earth and funny, and complete with guide dog to pat, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to buy his book. I’m a bit ashamed it’s taken me so long to read it, with my reading down a bit last year and my policy of reading some off the newer bit of the TBR and some off the older, but it didn’t disappoint when I did get to it.

Dave Heeley and Sophie Parkes – “From Light to Dark”

(10 June 2018 – signed copy)

A really good autobiography, very able co-written by Sophie Parkes, which felt authentically in his voice while also being well-written and well-structured (the two sides don’t automatically come together!). There’s lots of satisfying detail about his challenges but also humility about the mistakes he’s made and honesty about what being blind is like, as he is so often asked:

After all, the truth is that being blind is bloody awful. (p. 31)

But it’s a generally and genuinely optimistic book, full of community spirit and charitable enterprise and appreciation for what he can do and achieve (including woodwork – fair play to him!). He is always first to laugh at himself and funny situations he’s found himself in, and there were some genuine laughs there; what about when the Guide Dogs didn’t want him to have “Blind Dave” on his t-shirt because it was a bit negative! I of course loved reading about how he started out running (later than I’d thought) and also welled up a few times reading about his first London Marathon and a couple of his seven marathons in seven days in seven continents runs, for example when he was run in by a load of squaddies on the Falkland Islands leg.

As well as the human interest there’s lots of training and detail on the recovery and energy expenditure in the seven marathons challenge and details of the tent and logistics of the Marathon Des Sables (yes, he’s done that, too). It was lovely to see a mention of blind football Olympian Darren Harris, who I have also met, and I so look forward to encountering Dave, however distantly and fleetingly, at other events in the future.

Let’s all be inspired by one of his closing statements:

Don’t worry about what you can’t do; concentrate your efforts on what you can do and you will find you can achieve those goals and ambitions. (p. 287)