Three Blind Foundation community members scooped up top awards at the Achilles International New Zealand Awards on 26 May 2018.

Clients and staff members Mike Lloyd and Shannon Cleave won male and female athlete of the year, and Nicola Asmussen was awarded volunteer of the year.

Shannon, who is a Senior Administrator at the Hamilton office, said she was shocked to receive the award.

“I had no idea I was in the running, I had actually been tricked into attending the event, and nearly didn’t go!”

Her fitness journey began in April 2016 when her friend gave her a free gym pass. Since then, she has lost 60kg, completed a 700km adventure across the North Island with the Blind Foundation’s 7 day challenge and is training to race in the New York Paratriathlon on 1 July.

She also recently featured on Seven Sharp and is challenging perceptions on people who are blind or have low vision.

Mike, who is an Adaptive Technology Consultant at Awhina House, Auckland, is currently training for his 10th New York Marathon on 4 November.

His guide is Three news presenter Mike McRoberts and the pair has run the past two New York marathons together.

Mike had always been interested in running up until his mid-twenties when his vison got to a level where running the streets alone became risky.

“I couldn’t see bumps or cracks in the footpath, judge curbs and I even tackled a few wheely bins and power poles. That kind of dampens the fun factor after a while.

“I kept running on a treadmill at my local gym then purchased my own which I spent many hours on in my garage. This was good for a while, but I started to feel a little like a hamster on a wheel.”

Achilles New Zealand introduced him to the concept of running with a guide using a small looped tether rope along with verbal cues.

“I am still amazed that I agreed to run my first marathon in New York in 2007, then being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2012 added a bunch of new challenges to manage, so now only a few months out from number 10, it is very exciting and somewhat surreal.”

When asked what advice they would give to others who may want to complete a fitness challenge, both said it was about setting goals.

Shannon says: “Live the best life you can, by making the best choices you can. Train hard and be accountable to yourself. If you can, try not to link being successful with the approval of others.”

Mike says: “Find a goal and put actions in place to achieve it. Whether it be regularly walking around the block or along the beach with a friend or running for fitness or to complete an event, find a method of doing it that works for you and ‘just do it’.”

For a full list of winners visit Achilles New Zealand’s Facebook page.     

Shannon has set up a fundraising page if you would like to support her.