Running blindfolded!

Running blindfolded!

I had a new experience today. I met up with one of our lovely group who is training to be a running guide for partially sighted or blind people. This means she needs people to practice on! We met in London and started off in Regent's Park where it's quite easy. We started off at a walk, with me wearing a blindfold and at the end of a dog lead - goodness knows what everyone thought - and Vicky giving clear instructions. We swapped so that I could give instructions too, so that I could appreciate how difficult that is, and also to appreciate what sort of guidance is needed. I discovered that if you have a blindfold on the only thing you really care about is what's three steps away!

We swapped back so I was blindfolded again and progressed to a (very slow) run. Even when I was told there was nothing in front of me and I was in an open field, it was very hard to run freely, and as for weaving in and out of trees and round obstacles such as cafe tables etc., I naturally slowed down to a walk and it's really hard to run. My running action is thoroughly compromised - even though I was only holding onto the leash with one hand, it affected my balance and I was crabbing slightly to one side, although that was partly because I wasn't running alongside as I should have been but slightly behind.

When one sense is taken away from you, the others go into overtime. I was very aware of hearing people around me and of the different air pressures and qualities as we went under trees and structures. The ground underfoot seems much more uneven when you can't see it, and every little drop or rut is magnified, because when you can't see, it could be the edge of a three-foot drop for all you know.

It's also very tiring, concentrating. Vicky was brilliant at leading me and telling me what to expect: 'There's grass underfoot but we're changing to tarmac in three, two, one. Now we're running along the centre of the path but we're going to turn left now, left, left, left, good, straighten up, right, now straight, there's nothing in front so you can run now.'

At the end of the run we went onto the pavements outside the park and that was different again - terrifying! Pavements are very uneven, and although Vicky was excellent about telling me about the camber, it still felt odd. I could feel the different air pressures as we went past walls and gates and cars. I knew there was a kerb I could fall off if I wandered too far to one side. It was noisier. And - oops! - there was a road sign I bumped into :D

Today was fun, if terrifying! It was fantastic to meet yet another of our running group, and it was as if I'd known her for years :) Running with a blindfold really gave me an appreciation of how brave people are who run when they rely on other people. They are amazing - and the people who help them are great too.


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26 Replies

  • What a humbling experience Annie. That's such a brilliant thing for your running friend to do and I can imagine it was a totally different (and scary) experience.

    I use to work with a lady who was going blind and had very little sight but she use to go skiing with a guide and I thought she was fearless whizzing down the mountains when she couldn't see. How frightening would that be?

    Is that you in the picture?

  • Skiing blind? Ohmygoshhowterrifyingwouldthatbe??? Even walking was a bit scary, to start with. It really makes you appreciate what you have.

    Ha, yes, that's me in the pic :D

  • I always imagined you had fair, light auburn hair! No idea why, it's interesting the impression we have of people we've never met! Looking good there Annie 🙂

  • Ha - well, I can have, if you want me to, no problem! I agree though - we form these impressions and then the reality is... different! Merci du compliment :)

  • Very cool. We have a guided runner at many of our events. I can't imagine how tough directions would be during a race. He's also very fast.

  • I would imagine that if you always run with one guide, you build up a rapport with them, but even so, huge respect to anyone who runs races. And fast? We could have walked faster than I ran :D

  • What an experience. It must have been difficult for both of you but enlightening. Great picture.

  • It was very humbling, as Irishprincess says above. It really made me appreciate what I have and can do.

  • What a brilliant post. That really made me think. How hard we sometimes find running and that's with ALL our senses engaged. The trust involved must be immense on the part of the runner and likewise the patience and dedication on the part of the guide. So much we take for granted sometimes. Lovely post.

  • Aw, thanks, McFitty - it did really make me appreciate what I have and can do. Perhaps I'll stop whingeing so much now :D

  • Anniemurph did you see that Ullyrunner posted the details of the RLSB Blindfold 5K? Between you, you have both managed to inspire me to sign up to my first 5k! My son is going to be my 'guide' :)

  • I think that might be the one! On 6th November? I missed Ullyrunner's post - can you point me to it?

    Good for you! Go for it - it will be fab :)

  • Wonderful to hear your experience and I wish you well

  • Thanks, Lon! It's... interesting :D

  • That sounds incredible. I knew there were running guides but never thought about their training. I could be the one at the end of the lead one day as I have the very early stages of macular degeneration and will eventually lose my central vision. I hope that running will be something I will still be able to do once the sight has gone - with help. I love sewing but not sure that will work withou sight - I can cope with sore legs and muscles but all those needle and pin holes in my fingers - ouch 😱

    Nice to know tortoise will be a perfectly acceptable pace for the sightless me 😀

  • Oh, OP, I am sorry to hear that :( I hope it's a very long time away. My guide was telling me that in the training they were given different types of glasses to wear to simulate the different types of sight loss - I had foolishly assumed that it was just total loss of sight, but of course there are many different types of sight loss.

    You will so definitely still be able to run with a guide. We had never met before and I was trotting (slowly!) around trees, between gaps of less than a yard wide, under branches and along uneven pavements as well as just doing the easier flat, straight running on grass and tarmac. I would imagine that once you get used to your guide and develop a rapport with them you would find it quite easy to run.

  • Goodness Annie, that sounds extraordinary, terrifying and brave. Feeling the difference in air pressure when you go under trees and past gates and cars is something I can't even imagine. Well done to you for even tackling something so scary, and also to your companion for learning how to support blind and partially sighted runners.

  • Air pressure might be the wrong way of describing it, AM - but you can definitely feel when there's something nearby. I suppose some of it is what you can hear, but there's definitely a difference in what you can feel. Spidey senses!

    Yes, it's a great thing she's doing, and if I can support it in any way by being a guinea pig, I'll grit my teeth and get on with it :D

  • What an amazing experience, I'd love to lead a blind runner. When I was lifeguarding we had a session for blind and partially sighted people, one lady who was completely blind swam 50+ lengths every time. I remember one day when they all came onto poolside, one lady said "what's that lovely spicy smell?" And she made a bee-line for me and sniffed me! It was my hand soap that she could smell, even over the chlorine, amazing. It was a big responsibility lifeguarding them too, I really enjoyed it.

    Keep s posted if you do it again, I really enjoyed your post x

  • It gave me a whole new appreciation for my other senses, I can tell you that! It was amazing how I knew if we were in a structure, or near trees or a wall, or if we were running along the pavement, how I could tell if there was a gap in the wall suddenly. And yes, the responsibility from the other side is huge too. I only had a short go at guiding, more to see what it was like, but it was hard to keep watching out for things and to work out what was going to be a hazard and what you can ignore because it's too far away yet.

    I think there will be more, so yeah, I'll be posting again! x

  • I would love to do that too. What an interesting post. I hadn't given any thought to what was involved on the part of the guide or the runner. I don't think I am an experienced enough runner but somewhere down the line if I can find out where you can train to do that here (Germany), I would really like to do this.

  • I'm not sure you have to have any experience at all. I'm afraid I don't know anything about the programme itself, but I'm sure there must be info on line. I think this is with a London charity but I wonder if there are similar organisations where you are? It would be great if more people could do this :)

  • What a great post and a thoughtful experience. I can imagine your senses were really heightened making running into a whole new experience. I don't think I will ever stop being surprised at how people can use the C25k program after they graduate. Good luck to you both.

  • Thanks, Rfc :) It certainly was a new experience! It did make me think, though, and it's all thanks to C25K. Isn't that great? :)

  • Oh Annie, this is such an amazing post , what a truly humbling,scary experience that mustve been . I watch the Paralympic events and the runners and their guides never cease to amaze me , its just incredible .

    A Massive Well done to you for giving it a go, you have my total respect !

    Lovely to see you at last too , youre looking great ! :-) xxx

  • It were a bit bloody scary, Pops, I'll tell you that! :D Go over to the Beyonders FB page and there's a link to the videos somewhere - very funny, I look like one of your pugs, trotting along on a lead, tongue hanging out - only I bet they don't sweat from sheer terror :D :D :D And I'm sooooo slooowwwwww!!! Ah well, we can only get better!

    Seriously, though, it has made me realise just how amazing any of the Paralympians are. Yes, the Olympians are fantastic, but the Paralympians take it that bit further.

    And ta for your kind comments *blushes* xxx

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