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Blind runner takes on ASB Christchurch Marathon

30 May 2018

Nicola Asmussen isn’t letting being partially blind stop her from living life to the fullest.

The visually impaired athlete is gearing up to run the ASB Christchurch Marathon for the very first time on Sunday.

It will be the first time Nicola has ever run the Christchurch route – she’s walked it several times but thanks to the support of Achilles NZ, a charity that enables New Zealanders with disabilities the opportunity to participate alongside able-bodied athletes in local events, she's running the half-marathon track.  

“I’ve been visually impaired all of my life and have been a member of Achilles Christchurch since the Summer Starter in November of 2015,” Nicola says.

“I only ever really walked at the start, never really feeling confident enough to run, however last year I walked my first Christchurch half marathon,” she says.

“It was so cold and miserable and as I was walking to the finish line, my guide accidentally took me through the biggest puddle and I vowed that I would never walk for this long or be this cold ever again.”

That’s why this year, she’s determined to run the half marathon section of the fast, flat and scenic track, joining thousands of other race-goers on Sunday June 3 to celebrate the 38th running of the ASB Christchurch Marathon.

But running a half marathon comes with a raft of additional challenges when you can’t see where you’re going.

“I’ve never run before for fear of banging into lampposts, and I don’t see things like surface changes, potholes and everyday hazards such as bikes and cars,” Nicola says.

“I don’t see things like surface changes, potholes and everyday hazards such as bikes and cars,” - Nicola Asmussen.

Despite all that, she’s set herself a goal to beat 2 hours 39 minutes, which she’ll being doing with the help of her guide, Lisa Davies.

“I run with a guide who holds onto a tennis elbow stretchy which we both hold onto, and the guide uses it to steer me around obstacles whilst pointing out potential hazards,” she says.

Nicola’s guide Lisa Davies says; “running with Nicola is an inspiration, she runs with the expectation she will fall over, and I just think the fact she’s about to tackle running her second half marathon is incredibly brave.”

“Hopefully people will get out and cheer for her as she takes this challenge on because although she can’t see she can definitely hear the support,” Ms Davies says.

When she’s not running marathons, Nicola likes nothing better than going caravanning with her partner and finding a good pub to ride their tandem bike to.

She encourages other visually impaired and disabled people to challenge themselves to try new things and embrace living life without limits.

“Find a friend, join a group, go to a gym, just getting off the couch and going for a walk is a start, start small and you can work your way up,” she says.

For Nicola, the best part of the ASB Christchurch Marathon event includes; “Being part of an awesome group that’s prepared to get up at 8am in the morning to go for a run in the snow, wind and rain, crossing the finish line and of course, the medal and celebratory drinks at the end.”

City host ChristchurchNZ General Manager of Attraction Linda Falwasser says Nicola’s courage and determination are an inspiration.

“This is a perfect example of how events bring communities together and amplify the spirit of our people,” Ms Falwasser says.

“We’re encouraging everyone to check out the race, support and celebrate our amazing athletes and be part of the excitement of the 38th ASB Christchurch Marathon.”

“We’re encouraging everyone to check out the race, support and celebrate our amazing athletes and be part of the excitement of the 38th ASB Christchurch Marathon," - ChristchurchNZ general manager of attraction, Linda Falwasser

Race Director Chris Cox says almost 5,000 runners and walkers will take part in the June 3 event, which takes participants on a fast, flat and scenic route around iconic Christchurch landmarks including Hagley Park, the Avon River and the Red Zone.

 

“The ASB Christchurch Marathon has something for everyone, from a Kids Mara’Fun to a 10km, half and full marathon with the option to run, walk or wheelchair,” he says.

“It’s going to be a fantastic day so grab your running shoes and get ready to smash some personal goals – or just enjoy a great day out and join us to celebrate the ASB Christchurch Marathon.”