Linda with her Guide Dog Hendrix

When Linda Ongley ran the City2surf last year for the first time she vowed it would be her last endurance race, but a year later she plans to pound the pavement once again, this time in the Blackmores Running Festival.

Raising funds for Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, which has provided with her assistance since 1995, is her motivation for taking on the nine kilometre annual run.

“I’ve had four Guide Dogs since I lost my sight and they have allowed me to live independently,” Mrs Ongley said. “So if I can raise money for Guide Dogs and give back then I will give it my best shot,” she said.

Last year, the Marayong resident raised $6,000 for the organisation, which receives less than 2 per cent of its funding needs from the government, and this year she hopes to donate a similar amount.

“It’s thanks to the public’s generosity, through volunteering or donations, that people who are blind or vision impaired can receive our orientation and mobility services and Guide Dogs for free,” said Leila Davis, Guide Dogs’ General Manager Fundraising.

“The already growing demand for our services that enable people with vision loss to be independent is only going to keep on growing – for example, we currently have about 24 people on the waiting list for a Guide Dog.”

Mrs Ongley will leave her Guide Dog, Hendrix at home as she takes on the challenge. “I won’t have my daughter Sarah to be my eyes like I did at the City2surf, but I will have my friend Kerrie Cameron with me this time around. She was happy that the race is five kilometres shorter than the City2surf.

“I’ll be training hard for the next few weeks both outside and in the gym,” she said. “Kerrie is very committed and has been out every Sunday since Easter to increase her fitness. She has even run the circuit to prepare.”

The pair are aiming to run the distance in one-and-a-half to two hours.

“It costs more than $35,000 to breed and train a guide dog,” Mrs Davis said. “The two-year transformation process involves pups being cared for by volunteer puppy raisers for 12 months, after which time they return to the Guide Dogs Centre to be assessed through 20 weeks of intensive Guide Dog training.”

The dogs that graduate are matched to people who are blind or vision impaired and the new teams learn how to work and live together.

There are an estimated 280,000 Australians with uncorrectable vision loss (in 2014), 100,000 of whom live in NSW and the ACT. With these figures predicted to increase by more than 20 per cent by 2020, Guide Dogs is reliant on support from the community.