London 2012 Paralympic bronze medallist Ben Quilter returned to the capital last Sunday to complete a double marathon challenge – having taken on Brighton and London events in less than a week, writes Donna Richardson.
The retired Paralympian, who is also a double Visually Impaired World (VI) Champion, and VI European Champion, ran the Brighton Marathon on Sunday 6 April and then took on the London Marathon on Sunday 13 April, completing each one in just under four hours.
Money raised from donations will be split between two charities close to his heart, Blatchington Court Trust, a charity that helped Ben and his brother Lee when they were first diagnosed with Stargardt’s disease in 1992, and GLL Sports Foundation.
And it was an even more incredible feat as he ran the two marathons following reconstructive surgery on his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his knee but he ran Brighton with no complaints.
He ran Brighton in three hours and 47 minutes with Matt Barton, a childhood friend, and John Prescott, one of the British Judo’s medics for the visually impaired squad. Days later he and Barton took on the famous run in London, completing it in three hours 50 minutes.
Ben, who has only peripheral vision, said: “My whole body is aching, but that is to be expected.
“I found Brighton much easier with London hurting my tired body almost every step of the way and 26.2 miles was a very different challenge to a judo match but I really enjoyed the challenge and pushing myself — twice.
“Overall it was 52.5 miles of pain, your support is now needed to raise money for two charities that have helped me in my life and have assisted me in achieving my performance goals!”
“Brighton is my home town and so I did that for my friends and family and the event in London was just as amazing in terms of atmosphere. Being back in London, was very special too as at the Paralympics you channel it all out, but this time I was able to soak it all in.”
Some other celebrity athletes running on the day included current Mo Farah, 10,000 metres Olympic and World champion and 5000 metres Olympic, World and European champion, retired England footballer Michael Owen, and retired British rowing champion and double Olympic gold medallist James Cracknell to name but a few. Another visually impaired athlete was Robert Matthews, MBE, now retired, who won eight gold medals across seven Paralympic Games competing in blind middle and long distance events.
Overall some 36,000 people took part including amateur runners and some even in fancy dress.
All cheered on by thousands of spectators.
“The atmosphere was incredible at both events,” said Ben.
“Overall it was a truly memorable experience running with thousands of people.
“We did see a number of celebs at the start such as Michael Owen and Jenni Falconer (who interviewed me at the Brighton Marathon), but to be honest, I’m not that much of a celeb spotter. he said.
“Matt was excited to see Michael Owen because he is a Liverpool fan but I think the best moment for me was doing the YMCA at the halfway point.
“You learn a lot about yourself as a judoka and running a marathon is similar in this respect. Two in a week though was crazy for someone who has done very little running!”
And it was no rest for Ben after the event, who has recently taken up a new role as disability sports officer at GLL Sports Foundation. He was back to work on Monday accompanying a group of disabled children from Greenwich to a camp in Stoke Mandleville.
Quilter added: “I don’t know if I will do two marathons in a row, but I am certainly up for another challenge, as soon as I have recovered from this one.
“I now want to have a final push on the sponsorship front for my two chosen charities Blatchington Court Trust and GLL Sports Foundation.”
Blatchington Court Trust is an independent and impartial charity working to promote the educational needs of young vision impaired individuals, under the age of 30, living in East Sussex, West Sussex and Brighton and Hove.
This was one of the first charities to support Ben and his brother Lee and their family when both brothers were first diagnosed and helped them on the pathway to their elite career as a Paralympic Judoka by providing a platform from which to build upon and develop sporting and educational success.
If you’d like to support Ben there is still time to donate. Visit. https://cafdonate.cafonline.org/donatesteps.aspx?beneficiarycampaignid=1823
For further information about Ben visit: http://benquilter.co.uk/
Ben has indicated that he may run a judo masterclass and donate all mat fees to the two charities and the Paralympic Association are interested in him doing a cycling event. Watch this space!