Want to know how to find or become a guide runner?
Are you interested in running as a hobby, but not sure where to find a guide runner? Or maybe you're someone who is an established runner and are considering helping someone else discover the joy of running by becoming a guide runner yourself. Either way, it can be difficult to know where to start and many are put off due to lack of accessible information.
To encourage others to pursue their interest in guide running, ultra-marathon runner and RNIB Scotland member Hazel McFarlane has put together an indispensable crib sheet for Troon Tortoises athletics club, together with her key guide runners Anne Noble and Graeme McKenzie. The club are happy for us to share these with the Connect community, in the hope that other clubs will start to take more an inclusive approach to membership and to consider the access requirements of disabled athletes when organising race events.
If you have sight loss and are looking for someone to run with...
For totally blind runners, initially the motion of running might make you feel nauseated - this will disappear as your body and brain get used to running and your fitness level increases. Always be honest with your guide runner if the pace is too fast or too slow, or if you feel unwell or uncomfortable.
It's easy to become comfortable running with the same key guides as it helps you to get to know them well.
Be clear with new guide runners about the information you require while running - keep it straightforward and consistent.
Always take an accessible mobile phone with you on a long run or during a long race.
During a long training run or marathon, for people with no eyesight there is little to distract you if you start to feel fatigued - try to distract yourself by focusing on sounds and smells around you or with positive self-talk.
During a race it is easy to become distracted by other runners breathing, especially where breathing sounds laboured - if this starts to affect you, for instance you start to feel tired, try to kick away from them or drown out the breathing by focusing on other sounds around you (think about a song or piece of music that you like and play it in your head).
As you might have guessed, iPods and MP3 players aren't great running aids for visually impaired people, but be aware that other people use them and might not be as aware of you as you are of them.
When crossing the finish line in a race, the visually impaired runner must cross the line ahead of the sighted guide. If the guide runner crosses the line first, both runners will be disqualified.
When entering races, ask organisers for a discount for your guide runner, especially if they do not want a medal or T-shirt - most races accommodate this request (charity events, understandably, can't always offer discounted places).
Arrive at race events with plenty of time spare to get your numbers and your bearings - also, make other sighted runners aware of your presence.
Try to be understanding of other runners, especially at race events with sighted runners if they don't anticipate the participation of someone who is blind - by taking part you also raise the profile of blind people’s participation in sport (it’s a learning curve for everyone involved).
Remember to encourage each other! You're a team after all.
If you’re considering guiding runner who is blind or partially sighted...
It's normal to feel apprehensive and doubt that you can do it - don’t worry, this is understandable and shows that you care and don’t want any accidents or mishaps to happen (it is better to be apprehensive and careful than arrogant and unsafe).
Be honest with the person who has sight loss and talk to them about any worries or concerns you have about guide running - they may also have some anxieties.
It might be helpful to ask the person if they have any useful vision - most people who are registered blind have some sight, for example they may be able to see shapes, or might have some light or dark perception.
Although it's good to observe how other people guide, it is important that you and the person you're running with find your own way of working together. Don’t try to guide like someone else – just be yourself.
Take it easy to start with in terms of running, distance and pace.
Communication is key - keep talking throughout the run.
If you're feeling unsure, you could shadow a guide and runner to see how it works. This will enable you to observe the techniques and communication between you and the visually impaired runner.
Have belief in each other.
Take the first step
Further information on finding or becoming a guide runner on England Athletics website:
British Blind Sport help blind and partially sighted people to get active and play sports. The charity encourages adults and children to participate in activities at all levels, from grassroots to the Paralympic Games.
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