Think inspirational athletes and it conjures names such as Mo Farah, Paula Radcliffe and Jo Pavey. Yet running is a sport where there are often equally inspiring figures sat in the middle of the pack. Take Steven WatersTon for example, who will be taking part in his first Scottish Half Marathon this September.
A former Army chef, Steven suffered a brain haemorrhage in 2003 which turned his life upside down. It left him with a risky condition that could cause further bleeds. After surgery, he resolved to complete the Edinburgh Marathon in his hometown. A goal he achieved.
Since then, he has been hit with a severe bout of viral meningitis, faced ankle reconstruction and a second brain haemorrhage. It has caused him to lose a lot of his cognitive function and major sight loss. But nothing can break the stride of the man who was given medical discharge from the army in 2011.
He has completed several more marathons, he was a Clydesider volunteer at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and he is now an athletics coach and an official.
He answered a few questions ahead of taking part in this year’s Scottish Half Marathon.
WHAT IS YOUR 2015 RACE PLAN?
This year I have already done the London and Edinburgh Marathons. I will probably do one more marathon this year and two half marathons, including the Scottish Half Marathon. I’m looking forward to it.
WHY IS RUNNING SO IMPORTANT TO YOU?
Due to the neurological situation I had and the strokes, I got classified by the International Paralympic Association as a Cerebral Palsy runner because I have muscle problems and balance problems due to the strokes and subsequent brain surgery. Because of that I am limited to what I can do. I can’t ride a bike, I can’t drive a car obviously. Running is one of the few things that I can do on my own. You can do it anywhere anytime, in a group or on your own.
WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT IN RUNNING?
I’ve done a high altitude marathon in Africa and I have done a marathon on crutches. I ran the Loch Ness Marathon in 2009 after having my brain surgery in February.
GIVEN YOUR VISUAL IMPAIRMENT, DO YOU RUN ON YOUR OWN?
I generally start towards the front and that way I don’t have to deal with traffic. If I do, it gets really, really hard for me because I am completely blind on one side. It’s best for me to start up the front and let everybody get past me. I am marked up as visually impaired and I take my stick with me so I can run trouble free.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR INVOLVEMENT IN CLUB ATHLETICS.
I didn’t used to be an athlete, I used to give running clubs a bit of a bashing. But once I got discharged from the army, I decided to join a club for the social interaction and so they could help me improve my running. From there I got into officiating with Scottish Athletics and I did some coaching badges a couple of years ago and I am now coaching youngsters at Edinburgh on a Tuesday and Thursday night. I didn’t really have that opportunity when I was a kid or a young adult. I just ran on my own as and when I could. I wish I had joined a club – it is a good place to be.
WHAT IS YOUR JOB?
I have a position with Lasswade School in Midlothian in the sports hub. I am the disability inclusion officer. My job is to advise clubs and coaches on how they can interact with people with disabilities and encourage them to bring them into able-bodied squads as much as they can. I train at Edinburgh and have always trained with able bodied as much as I can.
WHAT AMBITIONS DO YOU HAVE IN RUNNING?
I have mentioned to my wife about doing the Marathon des Sables – a five day marathon. That might be exceeding my limitations. I don’t know I’d like to give it a go, but she won’t let me. But if I got the opportunity I would. Otherwise I’d just like to keep going with respectable times for as long as possible.
We wish Steven the very best of luck in the Scottish Half Marathon this September.
Standard entries for the Scottish Half Marathon CLOSE on Wednesday 26th August and start from £29.57. For full details, visit: www.scottishhalfmarathon.com