After spending the last three years as a VI Guide to David Edwards, I will now be the one who is visually impared as John Baker assists me across 10 different park runs whilst all the time I will be fully blindfolded. You can donate to our nominated charity, The Dorset Blind Association by clicking here. Thank you so much for your wonderful support.
The Blindfold Challenge:
For the past three years I have been guiding David Edwards at parkruns in Bournemouth and Poole, entering races including the Great South Run and assisted his amazing effort in the Virtual London Marathon whilst he was guided by John Baker. In that time we have built the David’s Guide Team to include both John Baker and Julie Burden.
In 2022 I want to experience what it is like to be a blind athlete and with John Baker’s guiding assistance I will be running 10 parkruns, all nine based in Dorset plus the New Forest event in Hampshire.
This task will be made difficult as for both John and me, seven of the parkrun courses will be new to us. I of course have absolutely no understanding what it is to be visually impaired so I am assuming my other senses will be completely confused. For John, there will be no relaxation on each run. He must consider geography, terrain, weather conditions and his own desire to keep me safe.
To ensure that David Edwards has a part to play in the challenge, he will be supporting at many of the dates as possible, guided by Julie Burden. This is very much a team effort. We are raising funds for the Dorset Blind Association in its 102nd year. Please click here to donate
June 3, 2019
David Edwards – The Runner:
I was born and raised in the Scottish Borders town of Selkirk a place surrounded by beautiful countryside. At school I enjoyed cross country running and playing rugby. I left school at 15 to take up an apprenticeship in the printing industry. In 1973 I moved to Maidstone in Kent, where I continued to work in printing.
I married in 1975 and in 1977 embarked on a path which led to a career in Social Work. In 1979 I experienced severe headaches and blurred vision which turned out to be as a result of inflamed retinas. After treatment my vision stabilised for a while but I was told to expect gradual deterioration. In 1983 I moved to Bournemouth with my wife and two children, which soon became three. I had to stop driving at the end of 1992, but was still able to work for another 20 years at which point I retired on medical grounds.
My working life was over! With encouragement from my wife I joined Dorset Blind Association (DBA) and subsequently took part in various sports such as Visually Impaired (VI) Tennis, Indoor Bowls and Cricket. I feared I was getting on a bit for VI Cricket but felt moved to appreciate just how many young people were facing a life-time of vision impairment.
Simultaneously, I started running at Bournemouth parkrun. I have been provided with a VI Guide each week to look out for the various obstacles on the route and to make sure I didn’t get lost! In 2015 my life took a new turn as I became the proud owner of a Guide Dog called Spencer. Although I had given up the other sports I continued running at Bournemouth parkrun, where many people have encouraged and inspired me to do my best. With the inevitable increase in aches and pains associated with running I was thinking about giving up that sport too.
However, in May this year I was contacted by Cliffe through (DBA) to ask if I was interested in a running partnership with the eventual aim of running the London Marathon in 2021. What an opportunity to raise money to help other people with vision impairment! Prior to this possibility, the furthest I have ever run is 10k and that was a good while ago.
There is no doubt that this won’t be an easy challenge but if it was easy, it wouldn’t be a challenge, would it?
Cliffe Tribe – The Guide
I started running in June 2018 with a crazy dream to compete in the London Marathon of 2019 and in my 60th year on the planet…. It was supposed to be a one-off with me hanging up my trainers after London. Needless to say, there is always another adventure in everyone!
Anybody who knows me will be well aware of my penchant for chatting all the way through sports; football, cricket and now running. I am continually barking orders, shouting encouragement or prattling on about something or other. I was approached by a runner after the Marathon who said they enjoyed my interaction with the crowd during the race and had I thought about being a guide for a visually impaired runner?
This certainly got me thinking and a couple of days after London I wrote to the Dorset Blind Association (my brother-in-law used to work there). The response was instant and before I knew where I was an invitation to meet David had arrived. Astonishingly, David lived just a mile from me.
From that meeting on it became clear that we both had something to offer each other. Me to continue running for a purpose and David a means to expand his running horizons and set himself new targets. Together we will go as far as we can and the journey will be fantastic. David is an inspiration and if I can be his eyes to good advantage then I am sure we will achieve our mutual goals.
The next challenge will be to raise funds for the Dorset Blind Association, but this time I will be blindfolded…
John Baker – The Guide
John is a regular ‘park-runner’ but has also taken part in much longer distant races. The ‘Virtual London Marathon’ on October 3, 2021 will be his first marathon in preparation for ‘The Valencia’ this December. Also his first long distance race as a VI Guide.
“I do get very grumpy when I don’t exercise regularly and running is an important part of my weekly exercise routine, along with touch rugby, tennis and circuit training. I have been known to seek out running events while on holiday, including a parkrun in Boston (USA) and a large organised race on a city break to Chicago in 2019.
I am a regular at Bournemouth parkrun, which is where I met David and Spencer in 2019, standing in as VI guide on a handful of occasions when Cliffe had other commitments.
As I prepare for a few longer runs in the second half of 2021, including a marathon in Valencia in December with my son, I hope to run with David as we build and maintain our fitness to run together in the Virtual Virgin Money London Marathon on 3rd October, raising money for Guide Dogs charity.”
Spencer – The Dog
I am Spencer, David’s Guide Dog and I am a cross Black Labrador and Golden Retriever. I was born on 23 August 2013 and on completing my training was matched with David in April 2015. From the start our partnership has been one of work and play. David says I am big softy with bundles of character and I have to say I do enjoy making his family and friends laugh. I adore my doggy toys including a panda which has been with me since I was a 6 month old puppy. I must admit, I do carry it around quite a lot; he is my baby and I do expect a favourable reaction when I show him off to whoever is in the house!
There is nothing I love more than the freedom of regular exercise and my free-running time when I can tear around like a puppy again, rolling in the long grass and dashing along the beach!
During my work I need to keep David safe giving him the opportunity to get out and about to meet different people with interesting stories to tell. I know this helps David to reduce his feelings of isolation, to keep him active and motivated. David has very little useful central vision so I need to help him to negotiate obstacles on the pavement, avoid bollards, lamp-posts, discarded shopping trolleys, wheelie bins or branches blown down by the wind. I try to keep him out of puddles and always stop at kerbs before waiting for an instruction. If there are people coming towards us, I will stop to let them pass.
When we go shopping together we work as a team, I look adorable and shoppers or staff members seem pleased to help us find the items we are looking for. If we are shopping with Nana, David’s wife, he often instructs me to “go find her” and of course I always do.
David tells everyone I am a star but in truth we are a team. I love giving him some independence, a sense of purpose and fulfilment every day and it’s my job to cheer him up when he is feeling down. David knew nothing about dogs when we first met, now he cant imagine life without me.
I am delighted Cliffe is to be his running guide. I will be in the crowd to cheer them both on in their future races together.