Recent research found that only 10.4% of adults with a visual impairment take part in sport once a week, compared to 36.1% of non-disabled adults. With this in mind, England Athletics and British Blind Sport have relaunched their ‘Find a Guide’ database - a national tool that supports people with a visual impairment to run. The online database has been re-designed, to pair visually impaired adults with guide runners who will help them get to the finish line.
Launched in 2016, over the past two years, England Athletics have trained over 720 people to become guide runners. Once paired with a visually impaired runner, the duo meets for one-on-one runs, to attend running clubs or run races, and more often than not, form a friendship as they clock up the miles. This relaunch sees a new and improved database, making it easier than ever for visually impaired runners to find a guide in their local area.
England Athletics and British Blind Sport hope the new ‘Find a Guide’ database will encourage more visually impaired adults to take up running.
Nick Thorley, a visually impaired runner from Nottingham who runs with an England Athletics licensed guide said: “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.”
To become a guide runner, you need to become licensed. This involves a DBS check and attending an England Athletics ‘Sight Loss Awareness and Guide Running’ workshop. Wendy Lawson, a runner from Redhill Road Runners did just this and now leads a visually impaired runner, named Iris.
Lawson said: “I find being a guide so rewarding as any events that I undertake with Iris are about helping her to succeed. I love the bond that Iris and I have, we always fall into step with each other and she is a great friend and not just someone who I guide.”
Alaina MacGregor, Chief Executive at British Blind Sport said: “We hope that the database will allow more visually impaired people to enjoy running, safe in the knowledge that they can connect with a guide who is trained, vetted and passionate about running.”
If you are interested in becoming a guide, there are 13 workshops planned across England this year. Visit the England Athletics website to find out more.