Running toward a brighter future: Tommy Salisbury

21 February 24

written by:

Josie Robson

(more articles)

Tommy Salisbury is the inspiration behind the Family Fund set up by his Mum, Emma when Tommy was just five years old. Tommy is now 23 and the Fund is celebrating raising over £700,000 on behalf of Fight For Sight and shows no sign of slowing down. Nor does Tommy, who is about to embark on his second London Landmarks Half Marathon and his second London Marathon – all continuing to raise funds for potentially sight-saving research.

Though there’s been some deterioration in Tommy’s sight over the years, he struggles to recall a standout point where Choroideremia has impacted his life. “I'm one of those people who doesn’t really shout about my sight loss condition,” said Tommy, who now works as a Junior Clerk in Chambers within the City of London. 

Tommy Salisbury sitting in front of a wall-length shelf of books. He's wearing a smart suit, has his hair slicked back, and a laptop set in front of him.

Tommy received a diagnosis of Choroideremia when he was four years old. This rare, inherited retinal condition affects one in 50,000 people worldwide. “My mum's granddad had it, so everyone in the family was tested. I think it’s good that I was told at a young age. It didn't come as a shock when I grew up, so I was prepared to deal with it as much as you can be with these things, and the way that it was conveyed to me has helped me to live with it.” Tommy does have difficulties with night vision and isn’t allowed to drive but he wouldn’t describe himself as visually impaired, asserting “I wouldn't ever want to label myself as visually impaired. I don't let it define who I am or let it negatively affect me at all.”

Reacting with positivity

Following Tommy’s diagnosis, his family sprang into action, raising awareness but also funds to help further research into his condition. His mum, Emma, was pivotal. “She just doesn’t stop, she’s one of the busiest people I know,” marvels Tommy, a self-confessed mummy’s boy. “I don’t know how she does it. 

Thanks to Emma’s efforts, being in the spotlight as part of the fundraising was just a part of Tommy’s childhood. He describes being on GMTV age 12 as ‘a surreal moment’. “I remember going into school and saying that I'm going to be on TV tomorrow, and then having all my pals and everyone watch it in class. I’ve never really loved being centre of attention to be honest, but it was quite cool.”

A game-changing moment

Fast forward a few years and Tommy was selected to be part of a Choroideremia clinical trial. By this time, he was working in a barrister’s chambers, progressing his way up through the firm, and got the call in the middle of the working day. Tommy’s reaction when he got the news was incredulous. He burst into tears on the steps outside his office in a moment he describes as one of the best of his life.

Tommy Salisbury leaning against a wrought iron fence on Bedford Road.

When he went back into work his boss spotted that Tommy was emotional, so took him to one side, letting Tommy come to terms with the news in the privacy of his office. He then went to let the team know about Tommy’s potentially life-changing call, so by the time Tommy emerged from the office, his whole team erupted with applause and big hugs. 

Though it meant missing a holiday with his friends in Croatia, Tommy has been delighted to have been included in the trial and hasn’t had any deterioration in the treated eye since then. “I can't thank [the eye researchers] enough. I mean, it's the reason why I've got a positive outlook on life now.” He doesn’t know what the future may hold for his sight, but he knows he’s not going to let it hold him back. 

Big plans for 2024 and beyond…

In 2024 Tommy is signed up to run the London Marathon for Fight for Sight, and he’ll be squeezing in the London Landmarks Half Marathon alongside his mum, Emma a couple of weeks before. Tommy has already taken part in the London Marathon once and describes running it with some of his closest ‘Team Tommy’ friends by his side, as a memory he’ll treasure for the rest of his life and “one of the most rewarding things I've ever done.”

Tommy Salisbury in his running gear jogging down a park avenue lined with trees.

But something like a marathon doesn’t come without its challenges. “I'd say I got to around 22 miles and I stopped for a second, and then it kind of hit me. It’s around then you really need the adrenaline boost you get from people shouting out the name you’ve got on your t-shirt!” As for his running playlist? A bit of dance, some Eminem and The Red Hot Chilli Peppers for when it gets tough. “’Can’t Stop’ is an anthem for me – it would be my ‘walk out song’ if I was a boxer!” 

And of course, his mum, Emma will be rooting for him all the way. “She has a route so she can support all the runners from Team Tommy, usually at mile 7, then 15, then 21 and at the finish. Come to think of it, she may as well be running it herself!”

You can support Tommy in the lead up to the London Marathon here.