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
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.