World record claim for blind runner in Manchester Marathon

 Yahya Pandor and guide George Giles.
Yahya Pandor and guide George Giles.

A blind runner from Swindon, England, is believed to be the first in the world to complete a marathon without being attached to a guide. Yahya Pandor, 29, finished the 2024 adidas Manchester Marathon in 4 hours 22 minutes yesterday.

He said: “I am delighted but exhausted. I can hardly walk today but I have achieved what I set out to do.”

Yahya lost his sight aged 24 after being diagnosed with macular degeneration. He also suffered a period of poor mental health. He can see nothing and has only limited light perception.

He said he was inspired to take on the marathon challenge after hearing about another blind runner who ran the Great North Run half-marathon.

Yahya, a government worker and qualified counsellor, revealed: “I need a challenge to motivate myself and, after I lost my sight, I knew it was important to stay fit and healthy.

“Running is accessible even if you are blind because it is low cost and something that can be done on a treadmill.

“When I heard about the runner doing the Great North Run without being tethered to a guide, I decided I wanted to strive to do something bigger and harder. I chose the Manchester Marathon as my goal.”

Yahya Pandor
Yahya Pandor

Yahya's marathon first

Yahya completed the marathon with the “talking support” of a running guide, George Giles, who he only met on the day of the race.

He said: “It wasn't easy to find someone to run with but George is a seasoned runner and he was able to talk to me as I ran. He needed to talk to me the whole way through the marathon, telling me when the ground was uneven, when to turn left or right, what was coming next, how to go around other runners and about any obstacles I might face.

“We had only just met but I became anchored to his voice to get through the miles.”

The run was not without mishaps. In the first mile, Yahya tripped because George forgot to tell him about bumps in the road and at times he ran straight on instead of turning.

Yahya added: “It was also difficult at times to hear what George was saying because of the noise of the other runners and the crowd. It was an amazing atmosphere but I had to focus hard on what I was being told by George.

“Because of this I didn’t find the marathon challenging mentally. However in the last few miles, I did tire physically. Then, as soon as I stopped, I felt my body seize up and today my muscles are very stiff.”

Yahya Pandor with marathon medal and a friend
Yahya Pandor with marathon medal and a friend

Training for a marathon without sight

To train, Yahya ran most of his miles on a treadmill. His longest run was 23.5 miles. He was also able to do some shorter runs outdoors with a guide.

Before the Manchester marathon Yahya completed two half marathon races.

He said: “It was hard to find people to guide me and the right places to run so I did most of my training on a treadmill. It is boring, although I lIstened to podcasts and books. I think the treadmill miles gave me mental resilience for the actual marathon.

“The Manchester Marathon was an enjoyable experience and I hope it will inspire other people who have visual impatient or who are blind to find a fun way to stay fit an healthy.

“It doesn’t need to be running because they could walk, climb or swim. But the activity does need to be enjoyable.”

Yahya now plans to enter the ballot for the London Marathon.