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How do I train as a Visually Impaired Runner?

Some background

I was born completely blind. I have not been able to see any form or light in my life, but this doesn’t stop me from living a full and active life style that includes being able to run.

Running has given me that real sense of freedom! Feeling the wind on your face and smelling the fresh air particularly when running in the countryside. There really is nothing like it! On longer and steadier runs, I love to just talk, and, take in my surroundings by listening to say bird song and sometimes just to think, it’s absolutely amazing.

My running journey started at the age of 11…

I think I’ve always had an interest in running ever since I visited athletics track when I was at a School in Sheffield.  I was 11 years old at the time, and I can just remember when we were doing 100 meter sprints and that feeling of amazement when we all ran towards the coach who was shouting encouragement to us all as we all ran towards him.

Training as a blind runner

Going at it alone

About a year or so ago, myself and one of my guides Paul Davidson were training on a local running track. I was just randomly walking along the curb that some running tracks have along the left-hand edge and I noticed that I could actually feel the left-hand turn with my left foot on the curb.  Then an idea came to me, would it be possible to run on the track untethered?
I voiced my idea to Paul and I think he probably gave me this look as if to say, what? Are you mad?
He did say no at first but then he said to me, “Why not?” “I’ll run and you just track my footsteps”. What an Idea! I thought.
So off we went at a very steady pace, and we did make it round but there was lots of zigzagging from lane to lane. The idea of being on a track of course is to try and run in the same lane.

So, Paul then came up with another brain wave. Why not use a mobile phone and play music? So off we went again and this time I was able to track the music perfectly! This in turn lead to me being able to stay in the same lane all the way round. We both felt this huge sense of achievement.

We were both actually in tears and we couldn’t wait to perfect the technique. With lots of practice I managed to do a park run untethered, then a 10km later that year.

Running off the tether is a very different experience than running on the tether.  That sense of freedom is absolutely amazing. Having been in a couple of race situations you certainly have to keep your wits about you at all times and being careful not to collide with other runners.  Being off the tether is all about using your other senses to compensate for that guidance you get from holding onto the tether.

The Challenges

One of the biggest challenges that I face when it comes to training is probably finding regular guides. I’m very grateful to Paul Davidson who guides me once a week, we’ve achieved a great deal in the time we have trained together. The other great challenge is to find suitable guides for races that capture my interest. Which has led me to also try some new challenges.

The Rest

Within this past year or so I’ve dabbled in triathlons.  Myself, Paul Davidson, and Mick Tozer have formed a group called Tri4VI. The idea is to enable blind and partially sighted people to have taster sessions in running, swimming and cycling within the south Lincolnshire area which is my home area within the UK.  To this end I’ve been learning front crawl with Mick Tozer who has been my swimming coach for the past year and a half and we’ve actually managed to complete a few triathlons which has been a huge boost I have to say!

I am going to keep training, now that I have my new NoblePro treadmill I can have the freedom to train whenever I want and I will keep working towards new challenges such as the 24hr challenge which is my next goal.

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Mark Ellis
Mark Ellis
Blind Marathon and Track runner. Triathlete. Dabbling in untethered running and swimming. Ambition to complete 24hr event.

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