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.
Cliffe, my running partner, asked me why I applied for a Guide Dog when I did? Some of my former work colleagues would say: “David doesn’t make a long story short but does make a short story long!” Well, here goes!
When I retired in 2013, I was aware of the limitations caused by my visual impairment. I would mistake people’s identity which was immediately noticeable when I said “Hello” to a life-size replica of Father Christmas sitting by the reception window in a day centre. The staff behind the window laughed and I did see the funny side of it too. I had a similar response from my colleagues after I told them that I greeted a very realistic-looking manikin in a local superstore.
On a more serious note, I did have a few mishaps bumping into obstacles on the pavement and stumbling on and off high kerbs. I found that shopping was becoming increasingly upsetting and humiliating as I couldn’t see the items on the shelves and had to keep asking staff or other customers for help to locate them. I felt that I was increasingly losing my self-confidence and independence.
When I realised how Guide Dogs were helping some of my newly found friends at Dorset Blind Association (DBA), I thought this might be the answer for me too. It would help me focus on the things I could do rather than on the things I couldn’t. With my wife, Jo’s support, I decided to apply for a Guide Dog and two years later, my Spencer arrived!
David and I will be running the Hampton Court Palace Half Marathon in March 2020. You can donate to our nominated charities by clicking ‘Guide Dogs’ or ‘Dorset Blind Association’.Thank you so much for your wonderful support.
June 3, 2019
David Edwards – The Runner:
I was born and raised in the Scottish Borders town of Selkirk a place surrounded by beautiful countryside. At school I enjoyed cross country running and playing rugby. I left school at 15 to take up an apprenticeship in the printing industry. In 1973 I moved to Maidstone in Kent, where I continued to work in printing.
I married in 1975 and in 1977 embarked on a path which led to a career in Social Work. In 1979 I experienced severe headaches and blurred vision which turned out to be as a result of inflamed retinas. After treatment my vision stabilised for a while but I was told to expect gradual deterioration. In 1983 I moved to Bournemouth with my wife and two children, which soon became three. I had to stop driving at the end of 1992, but was still able to work for another 20 years at which point I retired on medical grounds.
My working life was over! With encouragement from my wife I joined Dorset Blind Association (DBA) and subsequently took part in various sports such as Visually Impaired (VI) Tennis, Indoor Bowls and Cricket. I feared I was getting on a bit for VI Cricket but felt moved to appreciate just how many young people were facing a life-time of vision impairment.
Simultaneously, I started running at Bournemouth parkrun. I have been provided with a VI Guide each week to look out for the various obstacles on the route and to make sure I didn’t get lost! In 2015 my life took a new turn as I became the proud owner of a Guide Dog called Spencer. Although I had given up the other sports I continued running at Bournemouth parkrun, where many people have encouraged and inspired me to do my best. With the inevitable increase in aches and pains associated with running I was thinking about giving up that sport too.
However, in May this year I was contacted by Cliffe through (DBA) to ask if I was interested in a running partnership with the eventual aim of running the London Marathon in 2021. What an opportunity to raise money to help other people with vision impairment! Prior to this possibility, the furthest I have ever run is 10k and that was a good while ago.
There is no doubt that this won’t be an easy challenge but if it was easy, it wouldn’t be a challenge, would it?
Cliffe Tribe – The Guide
I started running in June 2018 with a crazy dream to compete in the London Marathon of 2019 and in my 60th year on the planet…. It was supposed to be a one-off with me hanging up my trainers after London. Needless to say, there is always another adventure in everyone!
Anybody who knows me will be well aware of my penchant for chatting all the way through sports; football, cricket and now running. I am continually barking orders, shouting encouragement or prattling on about something or other. I was approached by a runner after the Marathon who said they enjoyed my interaction with the crowd during the race and had I thought about being a guide for a visually impaired runner?
This certainly got me thinking and a couple of days after London I wrote to the Dorset Blind Association (my brother-in-law used to work there). The response was instant and before I knew where I was an invitation to meet David had arrived. Astonishingly, David lived just a mile from me.
From that meeting on it became clear that we both had something to offer each other. Me to continue running for a purpose and David a means to expand his running horizons and set himself new targets. Together we will go as far as we can and the journey will be fantastic. David is an inspiration and if I can be his eyes to good advantage then I am sure we will achieve our mutual goals.
Who knows, there may well be another running commentary of the London Marathon in 2021!
Spencer – The Dog
I am Spencer, David’s Guide Dog and I am a cross Black Labrador and Golden Retriever. I was born on 23 August 2013 and on completing my training was matched with David in April 2015. From the start our partnership has been one of work and play. David says I am big softy with bundles of character and I have to say I do enjoy making his family and friends laugh. I adore my doggy toys including a panda which has been with me since I was a 6 month old puppy. I must admit, I do carry it around quite a lot; he is my baby and I do expect a favourable reaction when I show him off to whoever is in the house!
There is nothing I love more than the freedom of regular exercise and my free-running time when I can tear around like a puppy again, rolling in the long grass and dashing along the beach!
During my work I need to keep David safe giving him the opportunity to get out and about to meet different people with interesting stories to tell. I know this helps David to reduce his feelings of isolation, to keep him active and motivated. David has very little useful central vision so I need to help him to negotiate obstacles on the pavement, avoid bollards, lamp-posts, discarded shopping trolleys, wheelie bins or branches blown down by the wind. I try to keep him out of puddles and always stop at kerbs before waiting for an instruction. If there are people coming towards us, I will stop to let them pass.
When we go shopping together we work as a team, I look adorable and shoppers or staff members seem pleased to help us find the items we are looking for. If we are shopping with Nana, David’s wife, he often instructs me to “go find her” and of course I always do.
David tells everyone I am a star but in truth we are a team. I love giving him some independence, a sense of purpose and fulfilment every day and it’s my job to cheer him up when he is feeling down. David knew nothing about dogs when we first met, now he cant imagine life without me.
I am delighted Cliffe is to be his running guide. I will be in the crowd to cheer them both on in their future races together.