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Guide runner

29 January, 2013 0 comments

Blind runner


The Importance of Guide Runners

A guide runner, for those who are unfamiliar with the term, is someone who quite literally guides their JoggingBuddy when they run together. Guide runners are used for the blind or partially sighted to allow them to run safely without having to worry about obstacles they may encounter.

Janet Hogg, a partially-sighted running enthusiast tells us a little bit about herself and running:

“I see myself as a fairly fit person for my age, and I have done yoga for years, as well as walking my dogs (one of which is my guide dog), trampolining with my four grandchildren, soon to be five. I also enjoy swimming, tai-chi and meditation.

“I have always walked a lot and started attending a running club a little while ago, which wasn’t what I wanted as it was for competition! I have always had a desire to run. However, I have a retinal disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa which has caused tunnel vision. My problem is mobility. I would be ok on a straight run but obstacles like people, bollards, or curbs pose a real problem for me. If I am sitting still or standing still I’m ok and can see which may sound odd, but it is frustrating for me. I feel that running is something I can do, and I do really need to do it, but I am hampered by my sight. I first heard about guide runners when I was scrolling through a website one day when I stumbled across JoggingBuddy and happened to spot someone offering their services as a guide runner. I had never heard of it before! My son who 37 and has the same disease of the retina as I have, but does a lot of running, and has run marathons for charity. I initially thought it may help him but he is much more independent as the disease is not as progressed as mine and he copes with it well. Then I went on to think, and thought I would appreciate a buddy.”

Whether training for an event or running for fun or exercise, the technique is near enough the same. The runner may choose to either be led by holding their guide’s elbow, they may be tethered to each other using a non-stretch tether fastened around the wrist or held in the hand, or the runner may prefer verbal instructions to caution them of obstacles in the route ahead. Tethering is most popular, but the technique used depends entirely on the runner and the limitations of their sight.

“Having a guide runner is not something I have done before, but I would definitely like to try. If I was to choose a technique, I think I would prefer tethering initially with some verbal guidance, purely for safety. However, as my confidence grew in my buddy, I could possibly get by with verbal guidance alone.”

When running with a guide, it is essential to choose one to suit your needs, and everyone’s needs are very different, but one thing runs through: a runner must be able to trust their guide. There are also suggestions that runners should be similar in height so they are able to match stride patterns and therefore run better together. Other advice strongly recommends that a guide runner must have the potential ability to be faster than the runner they are guiding. This is particularly important when training for an event where running speed makes the difference between winning and losing. Janet tells us what she looks for in her future guide runner:

“What would I like from my guide runner? Good eyesight! No, seriously, it is important they are able to watch for potential obstacles and keep me safe. I think someone of the same height would be useful, although it isn’t a priority. As long as they aren’t ten feet tall I’m sure we would be fine!”

Finding the right guide runner can make an enormous difference to how a blind or partially sighted runner executes their hobby. It boosts confidence enormously, and may encourage the runner to try more challenging routes, go further, go faster, or go out more often. Having a guide runner would make an enormous difference to Janet’s running:

“With the help of the right guide, I would hopefully run more and get more confident about running. I don’t think I could tackle mountains or an event yet, but every mountain begins with a step. My son would definitely benefit, perhaps more than myself, but he is still in denial with his condition! When I have run before I feel more alive and in control so with some assistance I feel I really could change my life.”

Becoming a guide runner isn’t difficult. While some level of physical fitness is important, being honest, trustworthy, kind and friendly as just as important. If you wish to become a guide runner, some sources advise you try running with an experienced guide runner to get a better understanding of what is required of you. Alternatively, you can take a training course through companies such as Running Eyes who offer a one hour training session to teach you how to be a guide runner.

There are many people out there like Janet who would love your support. You may have experience as a guide, or you may be interested in gaining some (recommended) before you find your new visually impaired JoggingBuddy. To offer your services as a guide on our site, simply click on ‘Edit Profile’ (appears to members who are logged in) in the top right corner and tick the box next to “Would you be willing to be a running guide for visually impaired runners in your area?”. It really is as easy as that. Someone in your area needs you!


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