The Parkrun Experience

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Me Time.”

Which is kind of a weird title, i’ve decided to write about something i do every Saturday morning, and many others do to, as the theme for this post was what you do on a Saturday.

II am of course talking about something called
Parkrun
I can’t even remember how i heard of Parkrun, but all i know is that i signed up for it in about March last year as i wanted to make sure i would be able to walk the 8 miles of the Belfast Marathon, so thought i’d join Parkrun. You have to register online, so that you can get a barcode. All parkruns operate a “no barcode, no time, no exceptions” rule, so when you register, as long as you bring along either your printed barcode, or a
Durable one from ERS
then you can join any parkrun in the world. All you have to do is turn up and get your barcode scanned at the end of the run.

I was initially very nervous about signing up to parkrun, so i tentatively sent an email to the event director at my local parkrun explaining that i had a guide dog and that i wasn’t running the course. I thought “There’s no way they’ll let me join in”, but i got an email saying that i just had to turn up on the Saturday and they would arrange for a guide or “Marshil” to accompany me around the course. I have never looked back. I was made to feel so welcome, and it was great to be part of something where your disability wasn’t the main focus of the event. Sure the volunteers and runners would ask, but there is no harm in that is there? Each week a marshil has been provided to accompany me and Ushi around the course without fail. I would never do it on my own as it is so open. All i have to do is tell whoever is accompanying me wwhat i need, and if i don’t have Ushi, i will just take their elbo.

What makes Parkrun even better is that nobody cares what time you do. You always get a cheer and a round of applause at the end of the run. You don’t have to run it either so that is good too. I always felt like i was being pulled around when i ran at school, so i’m not too keen, although many visually impaired people do and can run very well in fact. I do sometimes think that i am being a burden on the parkrun, but most of the people who accompany me can’t run anyway as they are injured in some way so it’s better for them to walk.

I have ran, or walked, in my case, 37 parkruns to date. When you reach 50, you get a club t shirt which has the parkrun logo on the front, and a big red 50 at the back. There are also 100 and 150 runs i think.

My local parkrun has been going for nearly 3 years, and has about 105 runners each week. Some of the runs i have been to have about 2 or 300 so it’s different depending on where you go. Each parkrun relies on a total of about 8 volunteers. Without the volunteers, there would be no parkrun. Volunteers are needed to over see the whole event, scann the barcodes, hand out finishing tokens which are matched up to your barcode with your time, be a time keeper and backup timer, be a tail runner, who is someone who stays at the back of all the runners. Once the tail runner comes in, then the parkrun has finished. There are also people who have to set up, and of course a marshil to accompany me.

Every parkrun i have attended have welcomed me with open arms, as long as i email a new parkrun about a week in advance before just turning up. The best thing is that nobody cares that i walk and have no intention of running.

The parkruns are free to attend for anybody.

Some of the parkruns have even got guides trained up in how to guide a blind or partially sighted runner, should this be desired.

It is so hard to keep active if you’re visually impaired, so i think parkrun is fantastic for that. Obviously it would depend on the person but i feel if you like walking or running, then parkrun is perfect.

The amount of people i randomly mention parkrun to is quite amazing. I even have got a few people involved with it.

If i miss a parkrun for whatever reason, i feel rather strange. You can be really tired in the morning before a parkrun, but when you turn up the craic and buzz of it all soon gets you motivated to do it. Plus, if god forbid, you happened to have an injury or fall, a runner will soon stop to make sure you are okay.

So i shall end by thanking parkrun for welcoming everyone, no matter what size, ability, four legs or 2, or even wheels, you are awesome.

So has anyone heard of Parkrun, and if so how did you get involved? What other things do people like to do on a Saturday morning?

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Traffic For My Non UK Friends

A couple of people have asked on Twitter how blind people deal with traffic in the UK. They get very confused, so for most of you this will be things we read already, but for anyone not living in the UK, i hope this post will explain our traffic.

I’m not even sure where to start. If you’re walking along a footpath, for example, the flow of traffic is either on your left or right. This is called the “guiding road” if you’re a guide dog owner, and probably for a cane user too, but i’ve never heard of it until i became a guide dog owner. Anyway this should be always on your left or right as you walk along and if you are crossing the street, you must try not to veer in to it.

Whenever we would cross the street, if there is no crossing point, we would generally go until the kerb straightened out. This is called Indenting. Guide dogs here are taught if it is a rounded kerb, to indent round the corner until it straightens out, and then we would tell them to go up to the kerb. Usually we would cross the street when the traffic quietens down, or else some kind stranger helps us across the road.

Some of our crossings are zebra crossings where they are painted with black and white stripes. Traffic is meant to stop when you step on to it as you have the right of way, but not all cars stop. In this case, i would wait until the traffic has totally stopped, and you can just hear the engines. Usually the way Zebras work is one side will stop and then there is an island in the middle where the other side will top when you are onthe island. Somezebra crossings are staggered, which means that the island in the middle isn’t just a straight over, they can have roads going off the islands, so you have to pick the crossing which takes you to where you want to go.

Some of the crossings are controled crossings which means that they have a button on them. The crossing will either beep if it’s safe to go, or else there are these little cones on the boxes which spin when the green man is up and it’s safe to go.

For roundabouts, we generally are taught to avoid crossing directly at a roundabout as it’s super busy usually there. So if we can, we are taught to indent up a little before crossing so that you can avoid the roundabout.

Finally, some areas are introducing schemes called shared surfaces, where there is no actual kerbs, and the idea is that the drivers and pedestrians have to actually use eye contact to decide who has the right of way. As you can imagine, this is pretty scary so there is a lot of campaigning to get that stopped, but some parts of the UK have them. The counscil where i am in Northern Ireland want to have 25 millimetre kerbs installed to “calm the traffic” or something stupid. So again, there is a lot of campaigning to stop that.

Hopefully i’ve explained as best i can about traffic and the way roads work for a blind person. If you need any more information, just comment away and i’ll try to answer as best i can :).

Sorry for my UK friends who know all this already :).


Angel Eyes NI Glitter Ball

My blog has been very quiet lately, but i am posting this entry on behalf of
Angel Eyes NI
Please do share this far and wide, and if you’re local, please do come along if you can. I had forgotten that there would be a meal provided too, so all in all, it should hopefully be a cracking event.

I have copied the flyer below. Please pass this on to everyone you know in the area.

Thank you!

Glitter Ball -7 March 2015
Stormont Pavilion, Belfast BT4 3TA
Dress Code – Black Tie
Events starts at 7pm with
Prosecco Reception
followed by
3 Course Meal
including choice of red or white wine
Vegetable soup
Brisket of Beef with Yorkshire Pudding
Eton Mess
Coffee/Tea

After Dinner Entertainment
Raffle
Disco until 1am

To book your ticket, make a donation of £40 per ticket- please do not tick Giftaid, but please do leave your email details
using the link– https://www.justgiving.com/AngelEyesNIGlitterBall/