This visually impaired man traveled to Japan to run 2,300 km in 40 days and now wants to take on South Korea.

When Gary Leung lost complete vision in his eyes almost 25 years ago, it broke.

The Hong Kong native spiraled into depression (he even contemplated suicide) because he thought hitting “rock bottom” would be a daily battle. He then came across long distance running.

Now in his 50s, Leung has since completed the 100-kilometer (62-mile) Antarctic Ice Marathon, becoming the first blind person to do so; the 400 km ‘Ultra Gobi’, considered one of the toughest foot races in the world; and he just finished a 2,300-kilometer charity run from the southern Japanese city of Kagoshima on the island of Kyushu to northern Aomori on the country’s main island of Honshu.

The Japanese “Dark Run 2023” was divided into 40 days, meaning that Leung and his swapped guide runners, connected by a rope, ran an average of more than 50 km per day.

Leung tells CNN Travel that the group quickly encountered difficulties on the district’s dangerously narrow roads, forcing them to undo their plans and identify suitable off-road spaces to travel the pre-planned distance before being transported to the next leg.

The run aimed to raise money for young people with critical illnesses through the Roly Poly Inclusion Movement Association, a local non-profit organization, with the proceeds – more than HK$300,000 (US$38,000) – going to Make -A-Wish Hong Kong.

“Although a lot of people may say, ‘Wow, you toured all over Japan, you’re so impressive,’ I’m actually not,” says Leung, who was born with a rare retinal disease that deteriorated to the point where we can now only differentiate between light and darkness.

“The most impressive are these children. I wanted to show them that we all have our obstacles, but we must face them head on and with courage. When they face theirs (many of them suffer worse difficulties) they can see that it is possible to overcome them.”

‘YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE AFRAID’

Although Leung can’t physically see things in front of him, he says that doesn’t make him afraid of running long distances.

“There is no reason to be scared if you are missing something; the universe will bless you with other talents. And you are never alone, just as I was not alone in this race. “My guide runners sacrificed their own vacations and put up their own money to fly and support me.”

Beneficiaries president Anita Lai says Leung’s “hard efforts” in Japan were “truly an inspiration to all child patients by encouraging them to fight their illnesses with a positive attitude.”

Leung, who is the first visually impaired runner in Hong Kong to hold a long-distance coaching license, has goals that surpass even his mammoth feats of endurance.

“I want to pass the torch. I am no longer the youngest and I will not be able to run these distances for much longer,” she says, smiling.

“I want to help my younger friends with similar disabilities learn to love exercise. Doing physical activities is not as easy for them as it is for healthy people, so I want to maintain a platform where we can continue to offer them things and they can do the same for more.”

Next up for Leung and his team is the Marathon des Sables, a 250km desert race from Morocco to France, next April.

The rest of 2024 will be spent designing an endurance circuit closer to home.

“I want to run the circumference of South Korea,” Leung says.

“We are still calculating distances and logistics. I have in mind to pass the torch, that’s why I want to share it with other people with visual disabilities. “It’s never just about me.”

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