John Baker is guiding me, as I attempt to run blindfold across ten different parkruns in ten consecutive weeks. Nine of these are in our home county of Dorset and one in Hampshire – Brockenhurst New Forest the venue today.
John’s wife Jo was with us and it was a trip down memory lane for her as she attended Brockenhurst College.
During the winter months this parkrun is held on a New Forest trail at Wilverley, but due to the increase of holidaymakers at this time of year, our venue was re-staged on the playing fields of Brockenhurst College, four laps of the circuit, running exclusively on grass.
Run Director Mick welcomed us in his pre-run address and as always the response to our attending, from runners and spectators alike, was fantastic. Thank you Brockenhurst parkrun.
Two critical things I learnt today on what was probably John’s easiest guide of the challenge was: (1) After a particularly long and hard week at work, I wasn’t feeling at my best – in consequence my levels of concentration were not what they should have been and (2) The journey around the course was pretty much a silent one – there were none too many runners and less spectators to cheer me on. I am now convinced that the reasonably modest time achieved of 33.57, on what was a pretty flat track, was due to the combination of these two factors.
John did not have to do anywhere near as much work on this parkrun compared with our previous four. If we measured his number of commands given during the run I am sure they would have been well down on the earlier venues? He could also see the whole course laid out in front of him, clearly a significant advantage for a guide-runner.
This was interesting. The course being straightforward over four laps meant that MY memory began to play a part – not a good thing when running blind as there are plenty of unseen hazards, even amongst familiar surroundings, there to trip you up. On a couple of occasions I did unexpectedly find a divot or hole under the grass surface, hidden from John’s view, causing me to stumble slightly.
Also my lack of fitness on this run almost certainly hit my levels of concentration. Very unfavourable for the blind or visually impaired
Two very important lessons were taken from Day 5:
(1) Just the slightest loss of balance is most disconcerting when walking or running. It saps energy and increases stress and anxiety levels. Even the most modest of tasks can be incredibly difficult when your vision is impaired. There is no such thing as an easy run!
(2) I most definitely need to be ‘in the zone’ with my fitness for these challenges. On paper, today should have been by far the easiest of the parkruns. It turned out to be mentally my most difficult one so far.
I will need to get my ‘head on’ for the tougher challenges to come...
Next weekend is the Royal Weekend and the David’s Guide Team will be heading off to North Dorset and the Blandford parkrun, where both David and Julie will be joining John and I for a run around the old Somerset and Dorset railway line. Hopefully see you there?
Note: On Friday 27 May I was a guest on Karen Wye’s Hope FM afternoon radio show. Many thanks to Karen and the team at Hope for allowing me to talk about the Blindfold Challenge and VI guiding in general. You can hear the whole 2pm-4pm show by clicking here to Hope FM and searching for ‘Listen Again’.