Upton House parkrun – May 7, 2022

The second Blindfold run and the first at this venue

Welcome James McCafferey to the team at Upton House

After all the excitement of running at Poole last week and seven days worth of great feedback for succeeding with the first of the ten challenges, it was a rather daunting prospect to consider the run at Upton House today. This was a first for me at this venue, although I took some comfort from the fact that John has run here before.

The team in front of Upton House – Hope it isn’t going to rain!

The Upton House parkrun organisers and volunteers led by Race Director Kirsty, gave John Baker, James McCafferey, David and I a truly fabulous reception and offered super support throughout the parkrun itself. James was guiding David for the first time in this challenge, but had guided him twice before.

Race Director for Upton parkrun with the team

Fear of the new

Last week at Poole although completely blind, I was aware of landmarks and obstacles, due to the fact I had many times run there as a fully sighted person. Although John needed to consider his orienteering skills, he could warn me of bends, bollards, sleeping policeman and general changes in terrain and I would immediately remember the severity of said obstacle or the sharpness of the bend. There are also no hills or trail ways at Poole or, as I learnt today, violent changes from dark to bright sunlight as you leave wooded areas for open spaces.

I was thinking about David who like me, had not run at Upton before. James was experienced with the course and that relaxed me a little.

James and David in full flow

I did not feel comfortable from the beginning. Although there were only 300 or so runners in today’s field, it was quite narrow and congested at the start. I urged John to take it easy in the beginning, but as the run developed it was clear from John’s soothing words that the route was opening up and we were soon confident enough to pass other runners. It wasn’t long though before the instructions from John were coming thick and fast as we switch-backed along the route, negotiated hills, violent changes in direction and different terrain underfoot. I was finding the experience quite stressful and my breathing became heavy (I told John it was hay-fever but in truth I knew it was anxiety). I needed to slow down, my confidence at what I assume was about halfway round was ebbing.

Feeling the stress of running in a totally new environment

I think I tripped once at Poole, but it was here that I had my first brush with an obstacle. we crossed a narrow bridge which I scraped against to my right. No damage done but it was certainly a harsh reminder of how difficult this challenge is and the enormous responsibility on John’s shoulders, not by his guiding a blind person at walking pace (which I am sure is stressful enough), but by guiding a blind person whilst running.

The Finish

We finished in a time of 35 minutes and 22 seconds which was considerably down on last week, but clearly shows the difficulties of the unknown and the anxieties faced when being blind.

Once again, I am completely indebted to John Baker for getting me home safely. Next week the challenge gets greater as neither of us have run at Bridport.

Near the finish

The people of Upton House parkrun cheered us on right to the end and on behalf of John, can I thank you again all for the fantastic support.

Taking the blindfold off into bright sunlight was surreal. It took a couple of minutes for me to see anything properly. I appreciate that for after 35 minutes of darkness, I was able to then see perfectly again; how lucky I am to be able to do that!

The Dorset Blind Association is a fantastic local charity that has supported blind and visually impaired people for over 100 years. If you can donate to them via this challenge report http://www.davidsguide.blog or directly on our fundraising page here, we would all be extremely grateful.

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