A woman, who has been blind since birth, will be taking part in this year’s virtual London Marathon to raise vital funds for The Salvation Army

24th August, 2020

Kelly Barton, from Southport who lives with her 14 year old son, took on the challenge of running the London Marathon, along with a gruelling training schedule, to raise money for The Salvation Army and its new expression in Liverpool, Strawberry Field which houses Steps to Work; a programme that supports young adults with learning disabilities and other barriers to employment gain work. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic the event was cancelled earlier in the year however Kelly’s dream can still become a reality as she takes on the challenge of running the famous 26.2 mile marathon distance on Sunday, October 4, in the new format known as the Virtual London Marathon.

The 43-year-old will start from The Salvation Army church and community centre on Shakespeare Street in Southport and will finish at the famous red gates of Strawberry Field in Woolton, Liverpool.

Kelly, the volunteer co-ordinator at Strawberry Field, has been registered as blind since birth. She said: “I haven’t been able to train much during lockdown because guide running was banned due to social distancing rules, so this new way of taking part in the London Marathon will be a definite test, made harder without the crowds of London to keep me going, but I am ready to embrace the challenge to raise money for such a worthwhile cause.

“Some young people can face many barriers when it comes to gaining employment and I am someone who understands just how hard that can be.

I’m living proof that there should be no barriers to employment at all and everyone should be encouraged to see their potential and reach for their dreams. That’s why I’m really passionate about the work that Strawberry Field does and why I want to raise money for the work taking place there. I know that the Steps to Work programme can, and will, change young lives."

With an initial target of £2,000, Kelly will run the 26.2 miles with her partner and guide runner, Mike Leatherbarrow. Those with a visual impairment can run with a guide runner who assists them through either being tethered together or, in Kelly’s case, holding the arm, just below the elbow. Mike can carry out this vital role for the run and adhere to social distancing because he Kelly’s partner and therefore in her support bubble.

Kelly continued: “It’s an amazing feeling to be able to run and to run fast, all my life I’ve gone around slowly and with such care; I’ve never had running experience before but now I am supported by Mike who gives me the confidence to run and although it was daunting at first I’ll never stop.

“When you can’t see, you have to walk really carefully and you have a cane so I’m in control. But with a guide runner you have to put all your trust in them. Mike describes what is going on around me, and he’ll let me know the sites that we’ll pass so I really won’t be missing out on anything.”

Kelly has taken part in various runs since first taking up the sport at the age of 40 and took part in the London Marathon two years ago, in 2018, but had to walk a large proportion of the course. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, and to prepare for this year’s run, Kelly took part in Southport’s weekly Park Run, which is five kilometres.

Kelly added: “If me taking part in the marathon gets just one person running or encourages people to think that they can get a job or that they can do anything then it would make me so happy; I want people to know that you can do it!”

To donate to Kelly’s fundraiser please visit www.justgiving.com/kelly-barton. 

To find out more about Strawberry Field and the work that they do, visit www.strawberryfieldliverpool.com

“The plan to open Strawberry Field to the public for the first time - so people can see a unique exhibition about the home, how and why the song was written by John, and allow visitors to explore the grounds as John did as a child - is very exciting.”

Lady Judy Martin OBE