Tamati Taptiklis taking part in a previous year’s Round the Bays event.PHOTO/SUPPLIED

ELISA VORSTER

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Featherston’s Tamati Taptiklis is excited to be taking part in Wellington’s biggest running event next weekend, but he won’t be competing for himself.

This will be the fourth year that Round the Bay’s sponsor Cigna will be supporting charity Achilles International New Zealand, which helps disabled athletes compete in mainstream events.

Mr Taptiklis was still in Nepal when he got the email asking if he wanted to take part in Round the Bays as a guide who would run alongside an Achilles athlete.

He first became involved with the visually-impaired during an Outward Bound course with the Blind Foundation, where he acted as an instructor.

He embraced the challenge of creating fun and adventurous opportunities for them to be able to lead exciting lives.

“I found that really enjoyable – just simple little things like sharing some of my time when I go for a run with someone else who wants to go for a run and sharing my energy to make life more fun for other people too.”

After this experience, he continued to give his time to others because he was moved by the amazing athletes he had met who refused to let an impairment stop them from achieving great things.

“I was quite inspired by their determination and it made me feel like I’d like to see if I can play a role in helping that.”

He stayed in touch with the Blind Foundation in Wellington who put him on to Achilles, which brings together visually-impaired runners from all over the region for regular social runs.

Guiding a visually-impaired runner involves anything from holding a rope to guide them or simply giving them verbal directions to avoid obstacles.

“A vision-impaired person will run with a sighted person who just helps to keep them safe and generally have a good chat,” Mr Taptiklis said.

Although he was relatively new to running with Achilles, he jumped at the chance to compete in the half marathon course, despite having no idea who he was being paired with.

“Hopefully someone fast,” he joked.

Each year Cigna donates $1 from every registration to the charity and gives entrants the opportunity to fundraise and make further donations.

With 2018 looking to be the event’s biggest year yet, Cigna is hoping to top last year’s massive $20,000 donation.

A spokesperson confirmed last week that registrations for the event were currently up 16 per cent compared to this time last year, with only 100 remaining registrations available in both the 10km and half-marathon distances.

“Helping our communities maximise their health and wellbeing is a huge priority for us,” Cigna’s Suzanne de Geus said.

“It’s exciting to see that donations for Achilles are already up 56 per cent on this time in 2017.”