What another great Saturday morning we’ve had. 358 runners and walkers plus dogs and buggies making their way round Welland Park for anything up to an hour. 34 lovely volunteers who set up, cleared up and then many of us (apart from the RD) sat having a chat with friends and fellow parkrunners for another couple of hours. A fine way to spend Saturday morning.
Having now been on the England Athletics Sight Loss Awareness and Guide running course with a few of my colleagues from Market Harborough parkrun, I thought this would be a good opportunity to tell other runners something more about it and how now is a good time to step forward. I’ve paced a few times and that is rewarding in itself, but there is something extra special about the trust between the Visually Impaired (VI) runner and their guide when negotiating the three and a bit laps round Welland Park while 350 plus other runners are flying past.
We have about 20 potential Guide runners and probably a dozen of those guide regularly (with one new member joining us this morning). There are seven VI runners / walkers, all of whose times have improved as they and their guides have become more confident. The VI runners range in age from 17 to 70 and some prefer to walk and some keep on setting PBs. Thankfully (for me anyway) all the runners have started from walking and have gradually gained pace. I’m not quite sure what it would be like to guide an already fast runner. I think Roger can give us a view on that!
Guiding gives you a completely different perspective on a parkrun. We may all think we know the turns and changes of surface and even the slopes, but imagine putting your trust in someone to communicate sufficient detail to negotiate the course for anything from 30 minutes to an hour?
The way many of the current group of Guides have learnt is through an initial practice session whereby runners are blindfolded and guided by their partner and then you swap. Both roles are equally important and enlightening. When blindfolded, one’s other senses are heightened, but your imagination can take over unless you listen carefully to and are physically guided by your partner. While guiding, you have to assimilate every potential hazard (bollards, changes of surface, path edging, twigs etc.) and think of the best way to either warn your partner or guide them around it (so they don’t even know it was a hazard).
This may sound daunting, but it really does mean that you consider and appreciate every step round the 5km course. Yes, there will be potential problems (there have been falls) and that river can seem very close when the faster runners are overtaking (just ask James), but when you both pass the finish line, it makes it all worthwhile. So much so, I signed up to attend the course and now have a Guide runners’ licence.
If you’d like to join the VI group, there is another practice session planned very soon. Email the team at firstname.lastname@example.org or stop and ask one of the VI pairs - preferably after parkrun!