Cambs man left with 2% vision after brother accidentally shot him in eye as child

A Cambridgeshire man who was shot in the eye in a childhood accident is running the London Marathon next month.

Piers Harding, 54 from Buckworth, Huntingdonshire, lost practically all vision in one eye at the age of seven when his brother shot him with an air rifle while they were playing.

Mr Harding, a design consultant engineer, will be among 100,000 runners taking part in the 26.2 mile race on October 3.

Read more: Cambs headteacher completes 15,000ft skydive to raise school funds

He is fundraising for the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), a charity close to his heart.

“Obviously my brother feels awful about it,” he said of the accident, which occurred inside their Cambridge childhood home 47 years ago.

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“We were playing with an air rifle, a fairly high-powered one, basically just fooling around and it went off and that was the end of the eye.”

After several operations over the years, Mr Harding has been left with around two per cent vision in his right eye.

“My parents were very liberal and allowed us to do those sorts of things. It was in the days before smartphones, so we were encouraged to go off and explore and play with things.

“I think the guns got banned after that,” he added.

The accident did not quell his sense of adventure, however, and after watching the London Marathon on TV a couple of years ago he decided to push himself to fundraise for the RNIB.

Explaining the impact on his vision, Mr Harding said: “Imagine looking through a tight-knit blanket, you can tell if the lights are on or off.

“Or if somebody came at you with a hand over your eye you would see something, it’s like that.”

Mr Harding completed the Milton Keynes Half Marathon earlier in September during 25C heat
Mr Harding completed the Milton Keynes Half Marathon earlier in September during 25C heat
(Image: Piers Harding)

Most people have binocular vision, meaning that your brain triangulates what it sees from two eyes to perceive how far away an object is.

For partially sighted people like Mr Harding, the brain instead relies on association and memory to make these judgment calls.

“Because I was only seven at the time, my brain changed very quickly,” he said.

This “other mode” means depth perception is no problem when running, but Mr Harding essentially has a blind spot on his right side which means he has to be extra careful of traffic, bikes, and other runners.

He prefers to have people on his left side.

Mr Harding said: “It’s been challenging training on and off over the last year so I’m happy things are now in full swing.

“I am no professional runner, but I’ve been training five to six days a week to get myself prepared as much as possible for the big day.”

This included a gruelling half marathon at Milton Keynes on September 5, when temperatures were in the mid-twenties.

“It’s a lot harder than I thought it would be,” he said, “because being a typical bloke I thought ‘ah this will be alright, it will be straightforward’.”

Now over halfway towards his £3,500 target, the 54-year-old runner remains undeterred in his mission for the RNIB, which is fighting for a fully inclusive world for people with sight loss.

Through the charity, he has heard from “really inspiring people” who have “gone through some real hardships with sight loss, explaining how they’ve coped and how they live their daily lives.”

You can find out more about the RNIB and – with just under three weeks to go until the Virgin Money London Marathon – support Mr Harding’s fundraiser here .

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