August 12, 2019:
In September 2013, I ran in my first ever parkrun which was at Kings Park Bournemouth. I thought I would be able to keep up with the other runners, but unfortunately I found myself running alone and with no idea where I was going. This incident did not daunt me though so I wrote a letter to the Bournemouth parkrun office to request the future help of a VI Guide.
From that point on I have been provided with a variety of Volunteer VI Guides who have given me much encouragement and guidance. We also have lots of fun and laughs along the way. I have heard many of their stories, what makes them “tick” and how they keep themselves motivated to carry on running. Without their fantastic help and support I could not have completed over 170 parkruns. Cliffe and I are big fans of the parkrun and we will be attending many different venues over the coming weeks.
I must tell you though, there have been some pretty scary moments…
My VI Guides have had to watch out for marker posts, trees and their roots, holes in the ground, puddles, runners who have stopped for a rest, members of the public coming the other way on bikes or with children or dogs. Some have told me that they have not realised how much they are unconsciously taking in when they are running, being unaware of the pitfalls for a person with a visual impairment. Some of the other runners have said that they have benefitted from the commentaries of my VI Guides, inspiring their own running.
Once, when I was with one of my VI Guides, I walked into a lamppost near the start line. The other runners, around me, laughed and joked saying “and that is before the run has started!” I have stumbled over tree roots or in mud. I’ve been soaked in puddles and had 2 falls on uneven ground just before the finish line. Whatever the obstacle or fall, others have been able to laugh with me! Several of my VI Guides have jokingly encouraged me to complete the 3 mile run without stopping to walk, allowing me to feel a sense of achievement at the end of the run. How is my VI Guide going to get me to run 26 miles?
My parkrun experiences don’t end here. I have marshalled over 50 times and since Spencer arrive in 2015, he has also accompanied me on many occasions. He has helped open up many conversations with other runners and volunteers. On one occasion a runner shouted out thanks to the marshals and to “marshdog” which illustrates the fondness the other runners have for him. He obviously loves the attention which he demonstrates by the furious wagging of his tail.