Blind and deaf Falkirk man (74) completes triathlon for charity

A grandad of four has completed the first event in his mammoth charity challenge.

Michael Anderson (74) swam, cycled and ran his way to success on Sunday, September 20 as he completed the Eyemouth Sprint Triathlon. The event consisted of a 750m swim, 19.14km cycle and 4.66km run.

Michael Anderson with daughter/guide Fiona Anderson

Michael Anderson with daughter/guide Fiona Anderson

This is not only an amazing accomplishment because of his age, but because Michael is also registered blind and deaf.

The Falkirk resident has Usher Syndrom type two and was born with moderate hearing loss. During his teen years he began to lose his sight before being registered as blind in 1974. By 1979 the father of three was suffering from profound sight loss.

Michael worked in agriculture until he took early retirement in 1977, however his sight loss has not stopped him from enjoying life.

In 1977 he joined Deafblind Scotland who helped him with his disability. In 2001 Michael sat on the board of directors and is now currently vice-chair for Deafblind Scotland.

Michael and Fiona run together in training for triathlon

Michael and Fiona run together in training for triathlon

One particular dream of the charity is to provide a Learning and Development Centre to enable those in need to realise their potential in society. Deafblind Scotland has bought land, named the Field of Dreams, and with planning permission given, hopes to build the centre on it.

However the cost is £1.5m.

Michael decided to do his part and has given himself a colossal task in a bid to raise £10,000 to the cause.

He is doing a 215 mile walk later this year, a 50 mile cycle and possibly another triathlon, as well as the one just completed.

Michael and Fiona training for the triathlon

Michael and Fiona training for the triathlon

Michael said: “Sport is for all. Believing is not just seeing.”

He completed his triathlon in an incredible 2 hours 21 minutes 35 seconds.

This is not his first success, in 2006 he rowed 34 miles of the Union canal and in July 2011 Michael became the first blind and deaf man to climb Ben Nevis, 18 months after breaking his thigh bone.

Michael trains incredibly hard, he hits the gym at least twice a week, and goes running, swimming and cycling with his guide Doug MacDonald or daughter.

Fiona Anderson guided Gavin Campbell while blindfolded

Fiona Anderson guided Gavin Campbell while blindfolded

His training was intense and I was invited to join him on one of his sessions and can easily say he is one of the most inspirational and driven people I have met.

I was very unsure of how fit and able this blind and deaf pensioner was going to be. However, when I met Michael at his house in Larbert I was amazed at the physical condition of the man. However after hearing about all his training I really should not have been.

Michael then handed me two pairs of glasses, one pair were covered in completed blacked out except for two small pin holes for me to look out of. This was to replicate tunnel vision, a syndrome of Retinitis Pigmentosa, which Michael has. Eventually it developed to full blindness.

While wearing the glasses, I could barely see a thing. My peripheral vision was non-existent and my eyes struggled to focus looking though such a small hole in the darkness. I was asked to walk down the driveway and Michael told me to imagine it being a busy pavement with lots of people. It was very difficult to keep your balance and to walk in a straight line.

Next I was blindfolded and given ear protectors to feel what Michael lives through everyday. While blindfolded I was walked down the drive and turned around, I was asked to point where the house was, I was miles off.

With the combination of being blind and deaf, I lost all sense of direction and became very cautious while walking. It is amazing how quickly I lost all confidence in my own ability to walk and had to rely on my guide, Michaels daughter, Fiona. The next step was running with Fiona.

This was a simple jog down the street however when you are blindfolded and deaf it is a frightening experience. I feared falling over and was scared that the next step was going to lead to a tumble, Not only did I have to focus on running but trying to listen to what my guide was shouting. Fiona was telling me about kerbs, turns and obstacles however if you are partially deaf it is so difficult to hear what is being said.

Lastly, I had a go on a tandem bike with Michael’s trainer Doug. I didn’t fancy that blindfolded as a tandem is difficult enough. After a few scares and wobbly moments we circled the block, Doug on the front leading the way. However to attempt that blind and deaf takes courage.

During my hour spent with Michael, I was given a chance to experience what he has to live with everyday and what little effect it has on his life. The man is so driven and was wanting to get on with his practicing rather than indulge me in his training.

All I can say is congratulations Michael on completing stage one of your challenge and I have no doubt what follows will not trouble you. Anyone willing to contribute can do so at www.justgiving.com/michaelsway.