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Running by Feel

A while back I posted a picture I took at the Surf City Half Marathon of a Blind Runner and their ‘guide dog’. I got a lot of comments about how inspiring it was and I have to say it was truly inspiring to me too. I think that seeing people overcome struggles is one of the most pivotal things that can happen in sports and I think that reading stories and seeing others achieving their goals is not only awe-inspiring but also humbling. It’s moments that happen where you realize how lucky you are. How sights and sounds are every day occurrences to us and might not be to everyone around us.

A reader left a comment that she was actually was a ‘guide dog’ in her track club and I was immediately interested. I wanted to hear more of her story and how she took part in the events! So below is her story and how she works with Joe a blind runner. Read on about Laura and be inspired!

Have you ever thought “I wonder what it would be like to be blind?” or “I wonder what it would be like to be deaf?” I know I have, and as a runner I can’t imagine doing my sport without either my sight or hearing.

For the past several months I’ve had the pleasure of being a “guide dog” for Joe, a blind runner in SacFIT running group. Joe is a 30 something runner who lost his sight in his teens due to a disorder where the retina’s detached in his eyes.  Since then he’s been blind but lives by the motto that he’s going to fall down and he’s going to bump into people, but he will get up and keep trying.  Joe is an active participant in Goalball, a Paralympics sport designed for blind athletes.  He’s played in many countries and just recently went to the Lake Placid, NY for the Paralympics team tryouts.

My running relationship with Joe started at the track workouts in Fall 2009 when our head coach paired us up.  Now trust me, I was very apprehensive about running with Joe at first.  I had seen him run with our head coach before, but still, having someone’s direction in your hands, even when you’re just running around an oval can seem daunting.  But I thought, “Why not give it a shot?”

When Joe and I run we are tethered together by stretchy phone cord.  I have one end and he has the other and he runs just off my right shoulder.  He’s able to keep pace with me by running next to me, listening to my feet and bumping my arm every once in a while to be sure he’s still in the right place.  I give him cues like when we are going into a turn and when we are coming out or if he’s drifting too far away I give the cord a slight tug and he moves back into place.  I give him a heads up if we are going to fast or too slow, but he pretty much just runs along side and keeps pace.

On the trail runs it’s pretty much the same thing, except there are many more variables such as trail conditions, bikes, holes, when to fuel and drink water, etc. Joe and I still run tethered together, he stays on the trail while I run in the dirt on the side.  As a group we yell cues for bikes, potholes, etc. so he pretty much knows everything that’s going on while we are out there.  We also do hand signals to assist the two deaf runners in our group.

I have come to really enjoy my time on the trail with Joe.  We discuss many different issues and he teaches me a lot about the things he’s been through and how he’s working to help the blind community.  I also feel good in helping him to achieve his goals.  He’s hoping to run a half marathon this year with our training group.  Last year he ran the California International Marathon relay, which he said he really enjoyed. My goal is to just provide the best running environment possible for Joe so he can achieve his goals. I’m proud of him for coming out, putting himself out there and running. He’s an inspiration to me and many other people in our training group.

Thanks for Sharing Laura! :) I found the story to be interesting and I hope you did too. Today is a rest day for me and tomorrow morning I have 5 miles. Thankfully the weather has been wonderful all week!


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