Running Blind, Quite Litterally

Yesterday, a very unique event took place up at the Stormont estate. Picture at least a hundred runners all running blindfolded, whilst they were guided. This is exactly what happened yesterday. Introducing
Running blind
Which was a 5 K event where runners were challenged to run blindfolded, putting complete trust in a teather and a guide. People could run, jog or walk it. All the proceeds were going to a charity called Pathfinder dogs, who provide german shepherd guide dogs for blind people. They are based in Scotland.

The man who was responsible for organising this event has recently completed the Derry marathon, using nothing but a guide runner. He is also a keen parkrunner and runs all the time. This was after something like 18 years of not running.

The organiser and I had a bit of banter about getting me running the event. I had, infact, considdered this a few months ago, but then began to talk myself out of it. When i ran at school, I always felt like i was being pulled along, rather than setting the pace. This was without a teather, and just holding on to someones arm. One day when i was running, my friend at the time who was running with me tripped over my feet and ended up badly grazing her knees. She had weeks of agony and different creams and things from her local doctors trying to get the remaining gravel from our playground out of her knees. For years, i blamed myself for that happening, as if she hadn’t have been running with me, it wouldn’t have happened, but it could have happened to anyone i suppose. Anyway, both those experiences kind of put me off running a little especially as i always felt like i had to run at the person who was guiding me’s speed, rather than choosing the pace.

Anyway, i had agreed to try the running blind with a teather as i knew this would have been a safe environment to try it in, and if i still didn’t like it, i would have tried it anyway. I kept telling myself that it was just a parkruns distance, and if i needed to slow down, i’m sure i could have done that. Plus, it wasn’t as if i was committing myself to keep running after-it was just a taster and a bit of an experiment to see if running would be my thing now.

The day itself

Yesterday started bright and early with my local parkrun. I have done 49 parkruns now. I still love the community spirret about parkrun. Sometimes though, that negative voice creeps in, and i think i am an awful burden on parkrun, and that it must be annoying with parkrun having to find a marshil each week to walk with me. Plus there is the fact that i need a lift down to it each week. Thankfully one of the runners lives near me so doesn’t mind swinging by to get me, but if he can’t do it, i will get a taxi down and always wait until someone offers me a lift, rather than expecting it, which i would never do. I will have to check to make sure that parkrun will keep providing me with someone to walk with me after i do my 50th parkrun and get my 50 T shirt. Some of the parkrun volunteers have expressed an interest in learning how to guide a visually impaired runner, so i shall have to find out how they would go about that, and of course see if we can find some runners who would want to do the parkrun. At least the volunteers have shown an interest though, even if i don’t run.

I just managed to make the 11 o’clock train, as i was gabbing afterwards. The train was absolutely bunged. I had forgotten it was the anual pride parade in Belfast. I was sitting beside a family who had spent the week up here from Dublin. Their son was in the Milk cup, which is a football championship for young people. It apparently goes from Portrush, Portstuart, Ballymoney, Ballymena, colleraine, Limavady and Broughshane. The kids have different matches they have to compete in apparently. It was interesting, and fair play to the kids. It sounded like a busy week they had.

I was planning to get the quarter to 12 bus from Central station as i knew it went to Stormont. However, because of pride, that was kind of scuppered a little. I had to get a bus from central in to Donnygall square west, and then walk down to May Street as they were closing a lot of Belfast to allow the parade through. I still thought i had plenty of time though as Running blind didn’t start until 1 o’clock. The bus going to Stormont didn’t come until 25 past 12 though, and took quite a while to leave because none of the drivers knew the best way to go to avoid the parade. The bonus though was that i passed the time with a lovely retired doctor who was going the same direction. The other bonus was that the Stormont bus was a talking one. I rang ahead to let someone know that i was running late,hoping i’d not miss the start of the race.

I got to stormont about 10 past 1, just in time for the start. I decided at that moment that i wouldn’t run it, and i’m quite glad i did. There was a whole group of us who were walking, so i just walked with them. Thankfully, they had all waited for me too which was good. So i set the timer, and off we went. I was walking with a puppywalker and her dog Cody. Cody didn’t want to be a guide dog though. We started at the bottome of the driveway that takes you up to parliament buildings. Unfortunately, this was up hill. While the hill wasn’t particularly steep, you knew you were climbing it, and it sure took the puff out of you. It was a mile and a half to go up and come back down again, so we had to tackle that hill again and come back down again. Some of our group only did it the once, but i was determined to keep going to make it the 5 K distance. Whilst we walked, we were accompanied by the thunder of different runners, all explaining when runners were approaching and when to tur all the while chatting away. One of the options to enter was where a pair of runners could enter whilst one was blindfolded and the other guided, and then they swapped half way around. You could tell the ones who had never done it before, simply by the shouts of “Left, left, left” rather panicked, from the more experienced ones who explained about 3 steps before the approaching turn. There were also the familiar beeps of the different sports watches, all logging their times.

Unfortunately because we had missed the start by a fraction, the finish line and all were getting packed away. Thankfully someone had saved out medals and goody bags for us. We still had our own group waiting for us at the end though.

This is the medal won at Running Blind. It is a german shepherd. Above it, it says
I must say, the event was very well organised, even if we missed the start. I was talking to the organiser afterwards, and he was telling me that he has been asked to run events in other locations, so that sounded pretty good. The weather was even kind to us and didn’t rain until the end. It was a brilliant day and i’m glad it was such a success. Well done again all.

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