A MAN who underwent two operations to save his eyesight after suffering a detached retina is to run in this year’s Virgin Money London Marathon.
Jonathan Allan will be taking part in the 26.2-mile challenge on April 28 alongside surgeon Anthony O’Driscoll, who carried out the second procedure.
He hopes to raise £2,000 for the eye disease charity Fight For Sight.
Mr Allan, 47, who lives in Shiplake with his wife Kate and sons Harry, 16, and Ben, 15, has run three marathons previously but the last one was in 2012.
He signed up for London following a routine appointment in December with Mr O’Driscoll, who has run several marathons for the charity himself.
Mr Allan, who works in London as a marketing director, moved to Shiplake in January 2017 after several years in his wife’s native New Zealand.
His peripheral vision in his right eye had been deteriorating for some time and he was visiting his parents in Leamington Spa when he narrowly avoided a road accident as he pulled out of a junction without spotting an oncoming car.
Mr Allan visited an optician who sent him straight to casualty at a local hospital, where doctors diagnosed a detached retina and sent him home with orders to lay immobile until they could operate two days later.
They said his retina was likely to have been torn when he was hit in the eye with a squash ball aged 10 and was now peeling away from the inner surface of his eye.
The retina was reattached during a five-hour operation at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.
Mr Allan said: “I was lucky not to have had a serious accident but I realised how bad my sight had become because it’s not normal to completely miss another car.
“It had felt like having a dark cloud over one eye for some time and was getting worse.
“It turned out my retina was detaching and they wanted to act before it came away completely, which is very tricky to fix.
“It was very scary because they had me lying on one side to make sure it didn’t get worse.
“Fortunately, the tear was on the lower side of the retina, so gravity wasn’t pulling at it.”
Mr Allan took three weeks off work then began seeing Mr O’Driscoll privately while he recovered.
After about three months, he underwent laser surgery to contain a build-up of fluid behind the retina which could have detached it again.
He said: “I chose to have laser surgery because although it has a lower chance of success than a conventional operation, I couldn’t face another five hours in the theatre.
“It took a few months to get my confidence back because I worried that any kind of stress or exertion, even as simple as a sneeze, would damage it again.
“I could have lost sight in that eye completely and that’s why I’m doing this now.
“You just wake up every morning not thinking how lucky you are to have your sight but something like this gives you a totally new perspective.
“I’m supporting Fight For Sight because I don’t want people to have to go through the trauma of surgery as I did or, even worse, lose their vision.”
Mr Allan, who ran the London and Barcelona marathons in 2012 and another in Singapore in 2009, now runs four or five times a week.
He said: “Before the operations I hadn’t really kept myself fit as I found it hard without a goal to work towards.
“Now I’m having to take it very seriously. It isn’t easy coming home from work at 8pm and having to strap on your headtorch for a run but it can be quite pleasurable when the weather is nice.
“It has all gone well so far and I only need to keep up that intensity for a few more weeks.
“My eldest boy is doing his GCSEs at Shiplake College this summer and I’ve told him that if I can focus on this, he can focus on his studying. It seems to be working so far!”
To sponsor Mr Allan, visit www.virginmoneygiving.com/
Also taking part in the marathon is a Henley town councillor who is making good on a promise he made two years ago.
Will Hamilton, 49, hopes to raise £5,000 target for the Chiltern Centre for disabled children, which is not far from his home in Greys Road, Henley.
The Conservative was mayor-elect in 2017 and had planned to make the centre one of his three charities during his year of office but he was outvoted at the mayor-making ceremony and the role went to Kellie Hinton, of Henley Residents Group, instead.
Councillor Hamilton told friends and supporters he would raise the money by running the marathon instead but was unsuccessful when he applied via the ballot for last year’s race.
This year he accepted a place that was secured by the centre.
Cllr Hamilton, a keen amateur swimmer and runner, began training in October after seeking advice from former Olympic skier Graham Bell, of New Street, Henley.
On top of his daily “short run” at the gym at Phyllis Court Club, he regularly runs 10 or more miles along the towpath between Henley and Aston.
He has also received dietary and training advice from Leander Club’s chief coach Mark Banks and former club captain Ric Edgington.
He gave up drinking on New Year’s Day but says this is only a temporary measure and is looking forward to enjoying a pint of beer after finishing the marathon.
Cllr Hamlton said: “I’ve never done anything like this before and I’ve completely changed the way I live to prepare for it.
“One of the great benefits of living in Henley is that there are so many Olympians around to give great advice.
“My training is going very well and the staff at Phyllis Court Club are inspiring.
“When I first said I would run the marathon, I was being quite flippant and hadn’t thought about how I would get a place but when the centre offered me an opening I was absolutely delighted to accept as I didn’t want to let them down.
“I then realised I was going to have to get serious about it.
“I started with manageable workouts and built up over time. I can now run to the Flower Pot in Aston and back several times but, sadly, it’s never open when I go past!
“I’ve had a lot of support from friends in the Henley Business Partnership, who run alongside me and give me lots of motivation, which I’m thankful for.”
He said he would be happy to simply complete the marathon and wasn’t worried about his time. “People tell me it’s an amazing experience,” said Cllr Hamilton. “They’ve also asked if I’ll be back on the beer but they needn’t worry about that, I’m sure a pint of Brakspear will taste amazing after months of going without.”
Paul Barrett, chairman of the trustees at the Chiltern Centre, said: “We are very grateful to Will for taking on this huge challenge and wish him all the luck in the world.”
To support Cllr Hamilton, visit https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/
Christie-Luke Jones, of New Street, Henley, will be running his first London Marathon in aid of heart disease charity Cardiomyopathy UK for whom he works as a community fund-raiser.
The 32-year-old has previously taken part in the Henley Half Marathon several times as well as the Tough Mudder obstacle course on the Culden Faw estate.
He runs 30 miles a week, mostly along the River Thames near Henley and Marlow. He also plays football with friends at the YMCA pitch off Lawson Road every week.
Mr Jones grew up in Henley with his parents Peter and Shirley, who live in Harpsden Road, and siblings Liam, Danny and Angelina.
He attended Sacred Heart Primary School, Gillotts School and The Henley College and trained to be a teacher but ended up working in the charity sector.
He said: “I’ve taken part in lots of smaller events but the London Marathon has always been the dream. I couldn’t get in on the ballot so I jumped at it when the charity invited me to take part. Increasing my weekly mileage has been a real challenge. I’ve always been a lazy trainer but I’ve given up alcohol and planned everything carefully to remain injury-free.
“I had a bit of a wobbble about a month ago but now that I’m at the real business end of my training schedule I’ve accepted that it’s going to happen and I’m going to enjoy it.
“I went to watch the marathon with the charity last year and the atmosphere is just unbelievable so I’m sure I’ll be driven by the crowd.”
Mr Jones, who hopes to raise £1,800 , said: “I will be going back to Gillotts in a few weeks to talk about my career and that will hopefully bring in some more donations.
“Apart from raising money, the important thing is raising awareness of the work we do and encouraging people to look into their heart history, which can have consequences even if they’re fit and healthy.”
To sponsor him, visit www.just
Former Watlington parish councillor Liz Winton will be running her fourth London Marathon in aid of the Save the Rhino conservation charity and her fifth overall.
The mother-of-three, who lives in the town, took part in the 230km For Rangers Ultra endurance challenge in Kenya last summer, which raised £3,500 for the charity.
Mrs Winton, 45, who works at The Granary café in Watlington, will once again be running in a 10kg rhino suit, one of more than a dozen owned by the charity. She said: “The suits were originally created for an opera production so they’re definitely not designed for running.
“The weight isn’t a problem because it’s evenly spread but they’re difficult to move in as they’re bulky and quite delicate. You can’t move your arms properly because you have to hold the head in place.
“We’ve got a fit young lad in another rhino suit who’s going for a world record but I doubt I’ll beat my best ‘rhino time’ of five hours and 27 minutes. I’ll just be plodding along at the back.
“They’re the perfect mascot and they really get people talking. Everyone’s always friendly to the rhinos and the adrenaline will get me through to the finish.”
Mrs Winton hopes to raise £2,500. To sponsor her, visit https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/
Georgina Kelly, 49, of Victoria Road, Wargrave, will be running her second London Marathon in 14 years.
She is raising money for Nerve Tumours UK as her 15-year-old god-daugher Annabelle Ireland has neurofibramatosis, in which tumours grow on nerve tissue.
She first ran the marathon for the charity in 2005 and this time her husband Paul will also take part for the first time.
To support her, visit www.uk.virginmoneygiving.com/
• If you are taking part in the London Marathon and would like to be featured in the Henley Standard, call the newsdesk on (01491) 419401 or email [email protected]
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