BLIND and visually impaired people took the opportunity to try running with a guide at a special ‘taster morning’ on the spacious sportsfields of the University of Essex’s Colchester campus.
The event was hailed a big success, attracting volunteers and helpers from local running clubs. It was supported by the British Blind Sport charity and Tiptree Road Runners and organised by locally-based runner Gary Perryman, who said afterwards:
“We witnessed amazing bonds develop between runners and guides, a great willingness to learn, mixed in with laughter and happy faces. All the effort put in by everybody involved made it a very special morning that will live long in the memory.”
Participants were introduced to the process of running alongside a guide, beginning with a ‘get to know your partner’ period, enabling both to find out about each other so the partnership could flourish. This took place in the University’s Evolve Gym sports hall and was followed by walking with a guide and an easy warm-up process, followed by a gentle run around the sports hall.
The most experienced V.I. runner, Roger, gave his guides a thorough workout, clearly enjoying the chance to run fast indoors! For those with less running experience, this part of the day allowed them to slowly build a relationship with their guides. For example, Paul, a veteran of just one five-kilometre Parkrun, and his guide Mike struck up an understanding very quickly. Then there was Samantha, who has a dream of running the 2018 London Marathon, and her guide Jennifer who also developed a bond from the off, which became stronger through the morning.
Gary continued: “This preceded the main event, the guided running out of doors, which took place on the University’s excellent sports fields. The well-kept surfaces there are better than the carpet in my living room! It was a perfect setting for what we were doing - sunny, breezy and very spacious.
“Roger gave some of the volunteers and spare guides a whizz around the fields, with Fiona enjoying a faster run-out than expected! For the other less experienced participants the whole things was new and very special. Paul and his partner Mike started off steadily to get their bearings and picked up speed and confidence as they went. This was really pleasing as Paul has very little sight, just a little light perception. His success was due to amazing teamwork.
“Jennifer and Samantha in action together was a sight to behold, their confidence high after their great indoor warm-up, and this grew throughout the morning, so much so they couldn’t resist squeezing in extra laps before heading back to the sports hall. Gareth and Al did a good job of being lead runners, making sure there were no unwanted surprises as the runners strutted their stuff.
“Eric, Glen and Kevin took the chance to have a run out with Roger, while Paul, Richard, Samantha's mum, Lizzie the guide dog and myself monitored progress from the sidelines with Sharon, Lucy and Nola the guide dog on duty back at the sports hall, where my wife Lauren whipped up well-deserved refreshments. We finished the morning with a period of information sharing – or, in layman’s terms, a bit of a natter - and some really useful information was exchanged.
“Tiptree Road Runners provided special support, as did the Ipswich JAFFA club, for whom Richard Sore passed on advice and information about their established sight awareness and guide set-up. Saffron Striders, Running Colchester, Parkside Runners, Colchester Harriers and Great Bentley Running Club were also represented and I am grateful to the University for being so welcoming and to Rob Hadgraft for taking photos.”
Gary added that he hopes visually impaired people who may not have felt confident about attending will hear about the success and friendliness of the event and be encouraged to maintain interest in trying running with a guide. Clubs like Ipswich JAFFA, Saffron Striders, Colchester Harriers and Tiptree Road Runners already have people in their ranks to help with any new members who are visually impaired, but Gary says his aim is to create more pathways for blind and V.I. local people to access the running community more easily and he is working closely with British Blind Sport to do this.
* Runners interested in becoming a guide are urged to follow the England Athletics link below. EA works on a supply and demand basis, so as well as training guides will also welcome interest from the local blind and visually impaired community.
Other useful links:
For further info, call GARY PERRYMAN - 07549 191221 (firstname.lastname@example.org)