Are you visually impaired and usually run outdoors for exercise?
Are you visually impaired and have taken up outdoor running during social distancing?
Researchers at the University of Central Lancashire and Solent University are investigating the impact of the coronavirus lockdown upon visually impaired (VI) runners. This study will explore VI peoples’ experiences of outdoor running and evaluate the impact of government measures –including two metre distancing – upon their participation. Data will be collected using online, semi-structured interviews in which participants will be invited to share their experiences.
You may take part in this research if you meet the following criteria:
Are a resident in the UK
Are aged 18 years or older
Have a visual impairment
Regularly participate in outdoor running as exercise OR have taken up outdoor running as exercise since social distancing guidelines were published on 23rd March 2020.
The purpose of the video resource library from the Northwest Association for Blind Athletes is to support athletes, teachers, families and community members in implementing instructional strategies when working with individuals who are blind or visually impaired.
Fitness Skills Videos
Helping educators build the foundational knowledge needed to teach individuals who are blind and visually impaired in fitness skills, including, full push-up, modified push-up, running, sit-up, jumping jack, jumping rope.
Andrew Jones Running the 10K with his Guide Runner Ben Roback!
I started running regularly in 2003 when a friend started up a local running group whilst training another friend to run the London Marathon. I initially ran without a guide but as my sight deteriorated I discovered that I did not fall behind and was safer running holding onto a friends arm.
I ran my first race in 2005 and in 2006 I ran my first and last race without a guide when I did not manage to meet up with my guide at the start of the race. I bought a good treadmill in 2009 as I decided that I either learnt to run on one of these scary machines or I would have to stop running. I have kept up with my running but it is difficult to remain motivated to run on your own on a machine without training for a goal or a race.
I joined Metro a year ago and have found my running spirit again. When I am running I am winning because it should not be possible for me to run due to my eyesight. It allows me to compete against my failing vision.
I joined Metro to regain the social aspects of running. I competed in the Metro games in the summer, and I have started running regularly at Park Run. I met Ben at the Metro Games where he offered to run as my guide.
We have now run several times together despite living over an hour apart. and last week, I ran my first 10k race with him. I had not managed to run for over three weeks due to a back injury and had also not run on hard surfaces for several years.
We talked our way around the first 8k and then the race was on as Ben had suggested picking up the pace at each of the last markers and making sure I had a sprint finish. Well, sprint finish was duly provided but the aspect of running which I am realising is most important is showing up and taking part. Thanks to Ben and to Metro.
My suggestion for anyone thinking of taking up running or joining Metro would be to give Metro a go and don’t look back!
Up until last December I had never had a go at running – I just assumed that because I couldn’t see, it wouldn’t be possible. So, when I found out about my local parkrun and heard that they had trained/experienced guides, I decided to give it a go.
At first running seemed a really scary concept – I couldn’t get my mind round moving fast outdoors, as when I’m walking with my cane I am always very cautious. Also, having to put my trust in a guide felt like a huge thing to do; I was reliant on that person to tell me about every bump, obstacle and turn, as well as what kind of surface we were running on and who and what was around us.
I very quickly realised that the key to beginning to actually enjoy running – for me – was ‘trust’. And without that, a run just isn’t enjoyable. Running with a guide is a definite relationship and over time I have built up my confidence by doing the majority of my running with the same guide, Mike (you can read Mike’s blog on the EFDS website). When I am guided I like to take hold of the guide’s arm; I tried a tether once, but just wasn’t at all comfortable with that. I think it’s different for everyone and an individual choice.
From parkrun I went on to take part in a 10k run in Liverpool. Since then I have completed two half marathons; one in Liverpool and in August, we went over to Ireland to take part in the Dublin Rock ’n’ Roll half marathon. When I originally set out to do my first 5K run, I never ever believed that doing a half marathon would be achievable and it still seems crazy that I’ve managed to run all those miles!
Over the summer I went out on to the beach with Mike one evening. It was deserted, so he suggested that I had a go at running alongside him without holding on, as there was literally nothing I could run into or trip over. I was so tentative about letting go of his arm at first. It’s hard to describe how weird and scary it felt running (even though he was right at my side) without being guided. While pretty terrifying, it was also completely amazing and liberating to be out on the beach, just running free and independently, like any other runner. It felt brilliant!
In the past I had tried going along to gyms. This is extremely difficult when you can’t see and I never really got any enjoyment from working out – but I absolutely love being active now with my running. It’s a great feeling to be out in the fresh air and getting exercise.
I have a very busy and full-on life, with working and being a mum, so getting out for a run is relaxing, and it’s an escapism too. But also, I feel that running has increased my confidence. I have stepped outside of my comfort zone and done things that I never thought I would do, like putting my trust in another person and travelling to a different place to complete a half marathon. Such positive experiences hugely impact on your everyday life, giving you the belief that ‘anything is possible’.
When I’m running, I do get extremely nervous beforehand, mainly because of the large crowds of people. But once I start, I’m ok and afterwards I just feel so happy and really pleased with myself that I have achieved it.
I am looking to sign up for some more 10k’s and half marathons for the next year. One day, I’d love to achieve completing a marathon – although I think I’m way off that, just yet! But, I like to be challenged and have something to aim for, as that’s what motivates me to keep running.
Even though I’m not able to see, I like to ensure that I live a completely ‘normal’ life. And one of the things I love about running, is the fact that I can blend in and just be like everyone else. It’s different for everyone, but personally I wouldn’t be comfortable taking part in a sport that is ‘just for visually impaired people’. I don’t like to be grouped with other blind people at all, because when I am in work or with friends and family, I’m surrounded by sighted people and I like my running to reflect this also. Again, it’s an individual choice, but myself and my guide never wear any clothing to indicate that I am blind or that he is guiding; that way I get to feel just the same as all the other runners.
I’d love to encourage more blind and visually impaired people to have a go at running. I think the most important thing to say, is that it’s not about speed at all. It really doesn’t matter how slow (or fast) you are. When you consider that most blind and profoundly visually impaired people struggle to get from A to B using a cane or guide dog, running can seem really daunting at first. But, if you can find a guide who will run with you and who you can build up trust with, definitely give it a go.
Statistics show that many blind and visually impaired people are socially isolated, so running is a great way to get out and active, while making new friends. It’s therefore really important to find innovative ways of engaging with people who have sight loss to encourage them to believe that running, getting active or indeed any sport is a definite possibility for them.
I’ve been running for almost a year, and every now and then I still lose my confidence with it. I might have a few bumps or collisions when I’m out and about with my cane and this in turn impacts on how safe I feel when running – or if I turn up for a run and I’m paired up with a guide I’ve never met before this makes me extremely nervous because trust isn’t something that happens instantly. My point really, is that running does take a lot of confidence and although I get slightly daunted with it at times, over all I absolutely love running and I’m so glad that I took it up.
It would be great to see more blind people feeling empowered to take up running too – and for some that could even mean a gentle walk, jog; anything that gets people out and active is a brilliant thing!
Thinking about trying out a run? Look for a local guide on the England Athletics Find a Guide Database. All guides in the database have attended a Sight Loss Awareness and Guide Running workshop, are DBS checked and are passionate about running.
Parkrun organise free, weekly, 5k timed runs around the world. They are open to everyone, free, and are safe and easy to take part in. Visit the parkrun website to find an event near you.