Melrose student hoping to complete run blind with sister’s condition in mind

Attempting a half marathon is a daunting prospect for any novice runner, but for one Melrose student that feat will be made even more difficult by doing it blindfolded.

Friday, 17th January 2020, 5:43 pm
Melrose student Thomas Billam, right, with his friend and guide runner Matthew Berlansky.

Thomas Billam, 22, taking on the Edinburgh Half Marathon blind in aid of a charity close to is heart, in May.

His sister Jemima,13, suffers from rare condition Bardet Beidl syndrome, which effects her eyesight, so Thomas, alongside his fellow Melrose pal Matthew Berlanksy, is running in aid of national charity Bardet Beidl Syndrome UK.

“Jemima is the creative, inspiring and bold member of the family who loves to cheer us up whenever we’re down,” Thomas said. “She’s courageous and for that reason, I feel it’s my turn to try to do something equally as brave as she is.”

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Jemima and Thomas Billam.

Jemima is one of around 500 people in the UK to suffer from the condition, which lists visual impairment, speech disorders, obesity and auditory deficiencies among its symptoms.

With Matthew as his guide runner, Thomas says training for and running the race blindfolded will allow him to experience some of the struggles his sister faces on a daily basis.

“Unfortunately for Jemima, as with many others who suffer the condition, her eyesight has been her greatest struggle in recent years, with specialists now explaining that she will be blind in the near future,” Thomas added.

“That’s a frightening prospect, but one which Jemima is taking in her stride, with ‘Michelle Cane’, her bejewelled white stick, by her side.

“As yet there is no cure, but I am hoping with further progress in genetic studies, soon we can find one.”

Thomas, a final year french and business student at Edinburgh University, will be cheered on by Jemima, his brother Alex, 19, and mum Jayne.

His first trial race is the Edinburgh Winter 5K race, on Saturday, February 1. He’s raised £1,485 so far and anyone able to add to that total can