An ordinary bloke from a little village called West Bromwich.
Dave was born 24th November 1957, but any one asking him, on his next birthday he will be 39 and 240 months. He is married to wife Debbie whom he whisked off to Gretna Green (a romantic at heart). They have a hat trick of girls whom he is very proud of; also an important member of the family is his guide dog Seamus.
He was always known as a clumsy kid, never a day passed without cuts, bruises or a broken pair of glasses, until at around ten years of age all was revealed, he was diagnosed with an eye complaint called Retinitas Pigmentosa, just a slight problem, it meant he was going blind. When first diagnosed he was quite a celebrity at school, “Wow Dave’s going blind”, no one else was so it was a case of ” I’ve got some thing you haven’t got”. He attended mainstream schools, Greets Green Junior and George Salter High School, his claim to fame; he was the town champion at 1500 meters for five years.
The realisation of his eye complaint hit him with some force at the age of seventeen, his career in the army shattered and with all his friends taking driving tests made him realise the true implications of going blind, it was at this point he inwardly started feeling sorry for himself, “Why me”, but in life there are two paths to tread, negative or positive and as he will tell you he took the positive route.
Regardless of his sight problem, he’s had a varied working career, mainly office bound, other than his short stint on a fork lift truck, he admits he wasn’t always honest about his sight problem, he had his own company for around seven years, distributing suspended ceilings, partitions, dry lining and joinery, he loved the buying and selling but with bad luck, bad debt and bad eye sight, all good things come to an end. After spending three years at the Queen Alexandra College for the Blind where he achieved skills in Braille, computers, carpentry and wood-turning, it’s now easy for him to lose himself in his workshop where he loves to design and make all kinds of furniture. He now even has a weekly radio slot on Insight radio called DIY with Blind Dave and still no fingers missing!
Dave tried hard over the years to conceal his blindness but with his eyesight gradually declining the accidents kept increasing until he had to admit defeat and resort to using the white stick, which made him feel incapable, vulnerable and extremely frustrated suddenly overnight Dave’s life was changed when he was introduced to Peter his first Guide Dog. No longer the hunched figure trawling the footpath, but full of confidence, standing and walking tall, feeling very proud, striding out with a sure-footed four-legged friend, mobility assured, as for independence, the perfect recipe for adventure, with a social life, second to none, his only regret is not having a Guide Dog sooner.
For fun he’s up for most challenges, he’s had a go at most things, skiing, water skiing, horse riding, cliff jumping in Corfu, drove around Brands Hatch, rode motor bikes, drove a tank in the Highlands of Scotland, abseiled, was let loose in a speed boat, completed the Go Ape course in Grisedale forest, an Aerial assault course in the trees, done an indoor sky dive (now looking to do the real thing!) he certainly enjoys his running. Competing in many half marathons, including the Great North and South runs along with the New York marathon and to date completing his 14th consecutive London marathon. Oh! And of course completing 7 marathons in 7 days on 7 continents the ultimate challenge! Not forgetting he is now also the first and only blind person in the world to achieve this.
After completing the epic challenge, which took him on a running journey around the world, as stated previously, running 7 marathons, in 7 days, over 7 continents, which began on 7th April 2008 in the Falkland Islands (Antarctica), Rio, Brazil, (South America), Los Angeles, (North America), Sydney, (Australasia), Dubai, (Asia), Tunisia, (Africa), with the challenge ending in the Flora London marathon, (Europe), on 13th April 2008.
The challenge launched Dave into a new career as a “Motivational Speaker” with a diverse audience i.e. After Dinner, Corporate, Colleges, Schools, Special needs etc. A fitting end to 2008 was Blind Dave and his running guide being acknowledged at the BBC Midlands Sports Awards as the winners of the “Outstanding sporting achievement of 2008.
2009 sees Dave becoming the Physical Activities Champion for Sandwell Council and an Ambassador for the Birmingham Half Marathon. He was also acknowledged with an award by the High Sheriff of the West Midlands. Since the challenge he has been involved with many charities, including running the first Birmingham half marathon for the Kidney Kids appeal with ” Team Blind Dave” and the last Flora London Marathon with a personal best time of 3 hours and 24 minutes.
2010 sees Dave being the first student to be appointed to the board of Governors at the Queen Alexandra College, he was also appointed patron of Ideal for All. Dave’s ultimate accolade as a west Bromwich Albion fan was to be made an Ambassador to the club.
2011 sees Dave announcing his latest challenge Top2Toe where over ten days in August he will run/cycle John O’groats to Lands End in aid of Macmillan cancer support in their centenary year. At the end of season, West Bromwich Albion players awards, Dave was presented with an award entitled “Contribution to the Community” This is the first time an award of this nature has being presented.
August 10th 2011 saw the start of the top2toe challenge, Dave’s first marathon of 10 began at 4am in the morning in what seemed like perfect weather conditions! The day suddenly changed turning into be the worst recorded rainfall since Scottish records began. Could it get any worse, and this was just the start!
Every morning starting with a marathon (26.2 miles), then exchanging trainers for cycle gear and cycling thats nights destination, a combination of running & cycling over 100 miles a day.
The journey as stated started on 10th August out of John O’groats, heading towards Lands End, via, Drumnadrochit, Loch Lomond, Lockerbie, Lancaster, Stoke, West Bromwich/Birmingham, Weston, Okehampton, Truro and finally on 19th August, Lands End. In Dave’s words, “It was an unbelievable journey, fighting the elements, rain, hale, fog, cold and sunshine, hills, valleys, A roads, B roads, Dual Carriageways, traffic. There was pain and pleasure, physical and mental fatigue but with support from a great team around me, the journey, the challenge, the adventure was a great success for both myself and more over the charity, Macmillan Cancer Support in this their centenary year, it’s been fabulous!”
The journey completed, was another first, a world record, running 10 marathons in 10 days and cycling 700 plus miles, John O’groats to Lands End certainly never being done in this way before, possibly never again either!
After finishing The Epic Top2Toe Challenge, Dave went on to complete his 10th consecutive Great North run 3 weeks later.
In recognition of Dave’s charity work over the years he was invited to Buckingham Palace for a Christmas reception with the Queen and also to a function at the House of Lords. In 2011 Dave was honoured by the Wolverhampton University with an Honorary degree of Doctor of letters. Family and friends are now extremely worried as Doctor Blind Dave is pondering his next move!
Dave’s next moves were a great surprise to himself, he was invited to attend events at no other than No:10, St James’s Palace meeting Prince Philip, Clarence House, meeting Prince Charles. Topping off the year with the black tie gala event presenting Macmillan with a cheque for £107,365.10p from the Top2Toe challenge.
What does 2012 hold?
2012 began with Dave training for his 11th consecutive London Marathon, then training for a little bike ride just 240 miles over 2 days !! This is in aid of “Changing our Lives charity”, something very personal as a very good friend lost her life and this was her chosen charity.
Dave has also picked up two awards, firstly the Justgiving Endurance fundraiser of the year 2011 and on the night of the Sleep Easy charity event (sleeping in a cardboard box) for the homeless, the Lands End to John ‘O’ Groats Association awarded Dave & the Top2Toe team with their most prestigious award the Griffin Trophy.
Then two very special events unfolded, on 31st March Dave became the 11th Honorary Freeman of the Metropolitan Borough of Sandwell, the highest accolade a council can bestow. Then on the 31st May at 7.15am in Cobridge, Stoke-on-Trent Dave completed the slowest ever 300m of his life! As a torchbearer carrying the Olympic Flame, held high & proud.. 29th August saw Dave with his mate Duggie ride the tandem into the Olympic stadium to take part in the opening Ceremony of the Paralympic Games.
2013 started off with a very painful 12th consecutive London marathon, his slowest to date and with both knees giving him serious grief, was his body beginning to ask questions! Unfortunately the answer was yes and after undergoing an MRI scan it was decided that Dave had to have cortisone injections in both knees and consider REST AND LOW IMPACT TRAINING!!
Then through radio WM and their red alert appeal, supporting Cure Leukaemia Dave took on a series of challenges in support of the charity. Could a blind bloke do?
Hairdressing? Yes but leaving presenter Adrian Goldberg with an unusual haircut!
Drive a steam train? Yes on the Severn Valley Railway from Bewdley to Bridgnorth.
Fly a plane? Yes a single prop plane over the skies of Coventry.
Dave and Duggie got back on the tandem for a little low impact training!
After the success of the Olympic games the first ever Ride London event was put on. It gave riders the opportunity to ride over 100 miles, traffic free, starting in the Olympic Park, encompassing the course for the Olympic road race, finishing on the Mal, alongside some 20,000 other riders. Knees held out!
September 23rd 7 countries in 7 days cycling over 700 miles. Dave and Duggies journey began in Zurich, Switzerland, passing through, Germany, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Holland and finally on the 29th September finishing in Birmingham Broad Street alongside 25 other core riders a real team effort supporting Help Harry Help Others Charity.
Decision time, Dave’s 12th consecutive Great North run and another Birmingham half marathon should these be shelved? Or the knees tested? They were tested, but sadly Dave realized that his 13th consecutive London marathon was not going to be. The knees needed more TLC.
2014 training commenced but not as intense as no marathons were scheduled. First challenge of the year was taking part in “wheels for change” a 100k bike ride starting and finishing at Dave’s top premier club West Bromwich Albion in aid of Unicef.
Next up the Aberdovey bike ride has become an annual event for Dave and Duggie but this year it took a slight twist and became a 3 day event. Starting in York, cycling to Sheffield along the 2nd day route of the Tour de France. The tandem conquering Jenkins hill! The final tandem adventure of the year was the “Coast to Coast Challenge” East to West across England and down through Ireland and back into Wales as part of a team supporting Teenage Cancer.
“I THOUGHT I WAS BEING ASKED ABOUT DESSERT BUT TURNS OUT I WAS SAYING YES TO THE DESERT” Dave’s latest challenge was announced the Marathon Des sables billed as the toughest foot race on earth, 6 gruelling days across the Sahara Desert running over 160 miles, raising funds for the Albion Foundation.
In July Dave received a High Sheriff’s award and in August the Points of Light award from the Prime Minister David Cameron.
Dave’s 13th Great North run was completed in a great time considering last years problems and the training for the MDS is well underway with an ultra 50 mile Gower Coast Run completed, giving Dave and his guides a Psychological boost they needed for the MDS challenge. Final preparations included a 24 mile ultra across the Breckon Beacons, in the cold and heavy rain, regular training sessions over the Wrekin, Shropshire, in the snow, they are still shaking their heads with regards to the weather! Off to run in 50 degree temperatures and they are training in the snow!
In November Dave was invited to the Black Country Sport and Physical Activity Awards, where for once Dave was stunned into silence as he picked up “The Elvis Gordon Chairs Recognition Award” the first time this award had been presented.
2015 The Marathon des Sables was upon them, along with Tony and Rosemary, his guides, they flew to Morocco for the 30th Marathon des Sables on the 3rd April 2015. The MDS as it’s known is reputed to be the toughest foot race on the planet, an event covering 156 miles over 6 days, being totally self-sufficient across the Sahara Desert. Over the 6 days they encountered dried river beds, dried lakes, 4 mountain ranges, sand dunes at times as long as 17 miles and temperatures that peaked around 50 degrees, but after 6 gruelling days they finished and Dave became the first English Blind person to undertake and complete. After such a fantastic adventure the sun must have got to Dave, as the following week he ran the Ironbridge half, followed by his14th London marathon and the first Great Birmingham10k. Then for a little fun Dave, Tony& Garry ran the Halesowen 10k dressed as the three blind mice! now may be a little rest!
No rest for the wicked it seems, as the mantle was picked up again on Dave’s book, the hard work with editing, sorting photos, this book lark was mentally demanding but with a lot of help from Deb and Sophie Parkes who helped co-write, the publisher’s deadline at the end of November was met, ready for the book launch early 2016.
The year ended with Dave being invited to become a fan in the crowd at the Hawthorns as part of the “Match of the Day” program, along with his daughter they were filmed before, during and after the game promoting diversity.
2016 New year, New challenge; Escape from Alcatraz!! the event in June considered by many the toughest annual triathlon in the world will test Dave to his limits. A mile and a half swim from the iconic Alcatraz prison through the cold, shark infested tidal waters of San Francisco bay, cycling 18 miles through the hills, then 8 miles over cliffs, beaches and a 400 sand step ladder. Has too much been taken on this time! as Dave and Tony could barely swim! Swimming lessons commenced with slow progression from armbands! to wet suits and open water swimming.
February 15th Dave’s book “From Light To Dark” was launched at Waterstones flagship store in Birmingham and a book signing tour was organised.
Dave was presented with a new West Bromwich Albion branded tandem ready for the annual Albion Foundation bike ride this year from Norwich City FC, over 3 days covering 180 miles back to the Hawthorns.
May saw the 2nd Great Birmingham 10k, our last event before Alcatraz.
7.30 am on the morning of the 12th June Dave along with Tony leapt off the San Francisco Belle moored briefly alongside Alcatraz prison, into the cold, rough shark infested waters of San Francisco Bay, 58 minutes later hitting the beach, transferred onto the tandem and the San Fran hills taking 1 hour 18 minutes, finally donning the trainers hitting the cliffs and sand, taking 1 hour 24 minutes, crossing the finish line. Finally escaping from Alcatraz in 4 hours 14 minutes and 11 seconds, with smiles of relief!
July saw another Halesowen 10k, celebrating the success of Alcatraz, with Dave, Tony and Garry dressed as convicts!
September saw Dave take part in his 15th Great north run, training continues as he gets ready for a final couple of runs this year, the Birmingham half in October, with now what seems to be an annual Breckon Beacon Ultra run in November, then it’s all hands to the deck as Dave prepares for 2017 and yet another challenge!