Guide dog owner sets her goals on completing an Ironman

Author: Regional Marketing and Communications Team
Guide dog owner Laura Whittaker is stood in a sunny garden with her arms draped in running and cycling medals. Sat next to her on one side is her retired guide dog Susan, a Golden Retriever x German Shepherd. On her other side sits her current guide dog Jasmin, a black Golden Retriever x Labrador,

Laura Whittaker is hoping to complete an Ironman for a big birthday coming up, having taken up running and cycling after getting her first guide dog.

As a child Laura was sporty but her eyesight started to deteriorate when she was just 19-years old. She eventually gave up looking for sport she could do.

It wasn’t until Laura was in her 30’s that she got her first guide dog, a Golden Retriever cross German Shepherd called Susan. Laura said: ‘My guide dog changed by life. I had become housebound. I used to be really independent and I didn’t want to ask for help.

‘Susan has definitely put a spring back in my step – I was getting out and about and I loved it! I trusted her straight away’.

It was during her training with Susan that another guide dog owner recommended Bury Tandem Cycling Club to Laura. Laura began going every week. Shortly after she began running and got a guide runner.

Soon Laura was getting too fast and got a different guide runner called Caroline. Caroline gave Laura a push to enter some races. Then there was no stopping her! In 2019 they completed their first 10km, and they have since ran a further three 10kms, two half marathons, has walked a marathon and has ran a marathon.

Her husband David laughs and says: ‘We call her 100 miles an hour Laura, she’s always doing something. Me and the kids come home and wonder what she’s up to – she’s nonstop!’

Susan was retired in 2021 and the family have kept her as a pet. Laura now has guide dog Jasmin, a black Golden Retriever cross Labrador. Laura said: ‘Jasmin is totally different to Susan. She is a lovely dog who just wants to cuddle you and lick you! She loves working and she’s so happy’.

Jasmin takes Laura to swimming practice, where staff assist her to the pool and take care of Jasmin for her.

Laura has set a big goal to complete a full distance Ironman. She said: ‘I want to do a full Ironman by 2024, around my 40th birthday. I’ll probably do a Half Ironman in 2023.’

In the meantime Laura will be competing in other races, including a 10km where David will be her guide runner dressed up as a guide dog!

For every event she does, Laura is fundraising for Guide Dogs and Bury Tandem Club. Her aim is to raise £10,000, and she is currently up to £6,300. If she raises enough money she would like to name a guide dog puppy.

Well done Laura!

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