Sunday March 08, 2020:
You know, when people say that time seems to fly by these days, well let me tell you, they are not wrong!
I started this guiding journey almost a year ago and cannot believe that we are just one week away from Hampton Court, the pinnacle of our ambitions. Are we ready?
I am writing this blog post just before heading out with David for our last run together before the big day and looking out of the window, I wonder just how the weather will treat us? There is no question that our preparations have been severely hampered by various weekend storms and general wet and windy conditions since October, but yes we are ready.
I have to say, it is hard enough motivating oneself to venture out in foul weather, let alone contemplate the trials and tribulations of keeping a visually impaired runner safe and sound as the streets are pounded in tethered partnership.
I fully intended hanging up my Asics after last year’s London Marathon; how could that experience be topped? Well let me tell you this past year, being David’s eyes while running together has been the most incredibly astonishing, educational and wonderfully humbling experience in this sporting life. The man is a complete inspiration. In his 69th year, a veteran of nearly 200 parkruns and now 10km and 16km road races with Sunday’s 21km to come, David is living proof that anything can be achieved through a strong will and positive mindset. He really is a top top bloke and a Scotsman at that!.
As I alluded to earlier in this piece, guiding for a VI runner is very rewarding, but can be pretty stressful at times too. Running in isolation is all about you, your own fitness, your own stamina, your own organisation. Running for two significantly increases the pre-race, during race and occasionally post-race anxiety. Consideration needs to be given to finding the race location, where to park, where to check in, discovering your starting point or ‘wave’ and countless other aspects within a day shared by up to 25,000 other people, with similar anxieties and lack of knowledge. Combine all that with keeping a VI competitor safe and ‘in the zone’ makes the whole situation doubly demanding.
During the race you are constantly on your guard to the many obstacles; some obvious and some less so that can cause problems. I have had to communicate David passed bollards, around lamp posts, over kerbs, sand, mud and exposed tree roots. Fellow runners stopping right in front of you, spectators walking out from designated bays and don’t whatever you do get me started on raised manhole covers, cobbles and potholes! As a guide I cannot think about my own tiredness or aches and pains. The job is to get your partner back home safely. I am lucky that David is a good listener.
What I can tell you however, is the joy shared with David on completion of a race. His ebullience and his feelings of self satisfaction makes this whole thing so worth while. When we competed in the Great South Run it was an unbelievably fantastic experience and one that we both never tire of talking about. The love and respect we received from spectators and competitors alike was wonderful and to receive your medal, wearing it with pride on your way home, makes everything so very special.
I told David when we began our partnership that he wasn’t going to fall on my watch. Despite a few scares along the way, that particular scenario has never happened. There will be lots of wood-touching in the coming days by this rather superstitious guide that we can also get through Hampton Court unscathed. Maybe good King Henry III with keep a watchful eye on us?
The race itself is the only organised running event of its kind, being staged within the grounds of a royal palace. It will give me the chance to commentate on lots of historical facts as we navigate the many paths and gardens of the Hampton Court Palace Estate. We are both hoping for fair weather and a large, enthusiastic crowd to cheer us on and get us home. If you are coming for the day, you will not be able to miss us as we will be wearing beards and tudor style hats…. Just something else for the guide to think about!