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Could you be a guide runner?

by editor
Friday 22nd April 2016
England Athletics and British Blind Sport have launched ‘Find a Guide’, a national guide runner database to support more people with a visual impairment to run. The database is an online tool for anyone aged 18 years or older with a visual impairment, whether they have never run before, are a gym-goer looking to take their running outdoors or a seasoned runner looking for a new guide. It will enable visually impaired people to go for a run on their own, join a club or running group or take part in an event or race.
The simple search function within the database allows users to search for a guide runner in their local area. All guide runners on the database are licenced which means they are DBS checked and have attended an England Athletics ‘Sight Loss Awareness and Guide Running’ workshop.
The launch of the Find a Guide Database is part of a national drive by England Athletics and British Blind Sport to support more visually impaired people to get active through running by putting them in touch with trained guide runners in their local area. There are currently 112 guide runners registered on the database across England, in particular guide runners are available in Cambridgeshire, Gloucestershire Leicestershire, London, Nottingham, Hampshire and South Yorkshire. 
Over the next 12 months England Athletics and British Blind Sport are working with various partners and running clubs and groups across England to find and train more guide runners so that there are guides in all areas of the country. If you’re interested in becoming a guide runner visit www.englandathletics.org/disability-athletics/get-involved/sight-loss-awareness-and-guide-running-workshop to find out more about attending an England Athletics ‘Sight Loss Awareness and Guide Running’ workshop.
The need for the database has been highlighted by latest figures from Sport England’s Active People Survey 9, December 2015, which show that only 11.8% of adults with a visual impairment take part sport once a week, compared to 39.3% of non-disabled adults. England Athletics and British Blind Sport hope the new database will encourage more visually impaired adults to access the support they need to take up running or enjoy more frequent runs.
Nick Thorley is a visually impaired runner from Nottingham who runs with an England Athletics licenced guide:“Running has become a massive part of my life. It gives me a focus, makes me feel healthier, has increased my confidence and provides a real sense of achievement. It’s the generosity and commitment of guide runners that makes all this possible. Strangely, I find running with someone gives me more of a sense of freedom and independence than anything else I’ve done.”
Tim Heming is a guide runner for Haseeb Ahmad and they will be running London together. This is what he has to say about his experience: 
"Guide running? Ah, that highly technical, acclaimed art; its secrets hidden from all but the chosen few souls who grasp the tether and breathe new life into the athletic careers of these otherwise pitifully housebound individuals. You might have fancied having a go, but how do you crack such a complex code? Simple. Reply to a Tweet. That's what I did. Or a retweet from Chrissie Wellington, the four-time Ironman world champion, to be more precise. 
Braddan Johnson, the founder of guiderunning.uk was looking for a sub-three hour marathon runner, so I called him up last year, was matched with Haseeb Ahmad from Oadby, Leicestershire and away we went. It was that straightforward and, shock, horror, guiding is actually not that hard. It is, however, incredibly rewarding and I embarked on a handful of training runs with Haseeb ahead of last year's Virgin London Marathon and we struck an instant rapport. Given the dynamic of one individual supporting another, I don't think that's unusual, but it is essential, probably even more than of being compatible in ability. 
Unfortunately injury scuppered last year's attempt at 26.2. It's self-evident but worth reiterating that at least two of you need to reach the start line fit and able, so if at all possible try and mitigate risks by having a back-up guide. As for the act of guide running itself, clear communication is paramount and that does not always need to be verbal. The tether can be up to two feet in length and wound in or out depending on how narrow the course or technical the terrain. It's personal choice but we've adopted a loose 'Chuckle Brothers: To Me, To You' approach and I'll often gently pull Haseeb through left hand corners and talk him through a running arc for right turns. You'll quickly learn that kerbs are the perennial hazard, but you'll also find the distraction of needing to control situations takes your mind off the actual exertion of running long distances. While the guide ideally needs to be comfortably quicker than his or her companion, my experience is that the act itself can improve your own running performance. In short, don't worry, you can only do your best.
This year, in the run-up to London, we've run half marathons in Cambridge and Reading without incident (although in the latter there was a near face-plant in front of the packed grandstand on the steep descent into the Madejski Stadium). Other runners have always been courteous and obliging, even grabbing water bottles for us when they are on, pardon the pun, our blindside, and three weeks out from London we're both looking forward to running the capital's streets. In terms of on-course motivation, as a guide to a blind runner, you're guaranteed plenty of cheers. My advice, take those first steps, seize the tether and enjoy every moment."
Running is one of the most accessible and low cost ways to be active and meet government recommendations to be moderately active for at least 150 minutes per week. Whether it’s to get fit, improve health, make friends or take on a challenge running has something to offer everyone.

To find a guide runner visit www.englandathletics.org/findaguide.
Join the conversation on social media using #FindAGuideAndRun.

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