A Dalkeith forces veteran with sight loss is encouraging others with a vision impairment to take up sport as he readies to run the London Marathon for the sixth time.
Long-distance athlete Steven Waterston, 46, has run with a long cane since his significant sight loss which resulted from life-saving surgery.
After overcoming a first brain haemorrhage in 2003, Steven was diagnosed with congenital condition arteriovenous malformation – in which high pressure arteries are connected to low pressure veins, risking rupture.
A second bleed in August 2008 – just after Steven completed his first double marathon effort in London and Edinburgh – led to the former Army chef taking the tough decision to undergo high risk surgery in February 2009 to minimise future bleeds.
The procedure left him completely blind in his left visual field with reduced vision and processing in his right visual field, and resulted in paralysis on his left side.
A turbulent recovery process which also saw him suffer numerous blood clots, including a clot in his lung and pneumonia, makes the fact that Steven ran the Loch Ness marathon just eight months after his operation even more incredible.
Steven said: “After my first bleed in 2003, running was like a coping mechanism. At that time I wanted to focus and have a goal to achieve.
“I’ve always been competitive and I was always intrigued by marathons – every year I’d watch London, and I always knew one day I’d get to one.”
Following his major operation, the lifelong runner says there was nothing more “normal” than for him to push for the starting line once again.
Wishing to push himself further, Steven began to experiment in running with different canes – first with an indicator cane, and then with a long cane with a roller on the end.
He added: “The Loch Ness Marathon in 2009 was my first marathon with a cane, and my first – and only – with my wife, Lynn. It was a milestone reached.
“My race technique has changed now – I used to race from the back, but because of my sight loss now I can’t do that because there’ll be too many people to overtake, so I get to the front and those who are faster than me will have to overtake me.”
Steven has not only overcome physical and emotional challenges as a result of his illness and sight loss. Medically discharged from the army in 2011 and faced with restricted employment opportunities due to his vision impairment, Steven’s determination has led to an ever-flourishing career in sports and fitness.
Alongside his coaching and officiating roles at Edinburgh Athletics Club, the qualified advanced personal trainer and sports therapist has also recently set up his own sports massage therapy business in Dalkeith, SW Sports Massage Therapy.