Day 3 of the Challenge and what a welcome!
Please help The Dorset Blind Association by donating here:
Another beautiful day for running and this time John Baker and I headed to the most western parkrun in Dorset. A 100-mile round trip to the lovely market town of Bridport, home to Broadchurch and the eccentric but fantastic Hat Festival. As you can see, in an homage to the quirky September event, we arrived wearing our own head gear to mark today’s third parkrun in the Blindfold Challenge raising funds for The Dorset Blind Association. Run Director Luke and his colleague Sarah joined in the fun and an astonishing 25 volunteers, marshalling 100 runners, were present to wish us well.
VI runner David Edwards did not join us today as it is too far to travel and too long a time to leave Spencer, his guide dog.
The run itself:
John and I left Christchurch early to give us time to have a good look at the course. It was a new venue for both of us and John was both concerned and keen to log potential hazards. It is a good job we did…
A local volunteer steered us around some of the more tricky parts of the three-lap course. There were plenty of narrow sections, steep inclines and descensions, 90 degree sharp corners, bollards and small pathways to navigate. There was also the small matter of faster runners passing us in both directions and members of the public enjoying the park on a lovely May day. I could tell John was worried…
As normal we started at the back of the field and the first part of the course was relatively easy, flat and straight. Up past Bridport football ground and a 360 degree switch back to re-enter the park and head towards a small housing estate where John’s work really began.
A guide to a VI runner involves being 100% aware of everything around you. He or she needs to be able to constantly communicate with his/her blind partner. First and foremost they need to be heard. Unlike when running with David, who started to lose his vision over 35 years ago and in consequence, his other senses have developed, my own senses such as hearing, have not and therefore will not compensate for my temporary loss of sight. John is acutely aware of this.
John has to guide a fully sighted person who is unaccustomedly completely blind, but also running, for up to 35 minutes, in a race and in a location completely alien to him.
I am in my own world trying to forget about the blackness and the anxieties of being in the dark, in a strange place and running at a reasonable speed. I concentrate completely on his voice and try to shut out the other noises around me. I have to ignore words of encouragement from spectators and other runners. I do feel like I am being rude by not acknowledging their support, but I really cannot afford to miss a command from John. I know he would be mortified if I fell or clattered into lamppost, tree or heaven forbid, hurt a casual park user or fellow runner.
John had to work exceptionally hard at St Mary’s. The northern section of the course (which needed to be navigated three times) was complete with narrow, paths, tree routes, violent changes in direction, hills and descents. I did stumble a couple of times which winded me, but luckily did not fall.
We had a wonderful reception on completing the run in 34 minutes and 22 seconds. John and I sincerely thank everyone at St Mary’s for their super support of a crazy challenge.
Next week it is back nearer to home and a short drive to Moors Valley.