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Blind Netty’s lockdown guide

Being visually impaired means I can’t run without a guide so during lockdown my treadmill is a lifesaver. We never know how long lockdown is going to go on for so to stop things getting boring I find it best not to just knock out the miles – variety is the spice of life, so I try to liven it up with a mixture of steady runs, efforts and hills each week. For instance:

• Steady run -10k in an hour (6k pace).

• Intervals – 7k First 5 mins at 6 min per k, then 7 x 1 minute at 4k pace with 1 minute recovery at 7k pace. Then warm down at 6.5 min pace taking distance up to 7k.

• Hills – First 10 mins at 6 min per k, then 5 x one minute hard efforts at 5 percent gradient with one minute recovery on the flat at 7min k pace. Bring total distance up to 5k at 6:30 min per k.

There are lots of options and training programs online to keep it interesting.

I’m a member of a running club. Although I haven’t been running with them for nearly a year due to the Corona pandemic they have been brilliant in supporting their members. Zoom calls, quizzes and various chat groups. One of the things I love and can join in with is the virtual challenges that have been running all through the year. Sometimes we have 30 or 40 members joining in and all the results are listed and sorted to come up with male and female winners, age group winners and age-grade winners. Here is an example of our latest monthly challenge where you have 7 days to set your fastest time over a particular distance and then the results are totalled up at the end of the month:

• Week 1 -3k 13.39

• Week 2 -6k 27.41

• Week 3 -9k

• Week 4- 12k

Cravings !

I guess we’ve all been a bit bored at times during lockdown and been popping to the fridge or biscuit tin for treats. What I’ve found is when I’ve craved chocolate or cake I go and get on the treadmill. By the time I’ve finished the craving has gone. It also works when I’m feeling a bit down, by the time I finish I feel proud and positive. Yes, it’s hard with Covid 19 but having my treadmill has been a lifesaver. The fact that it’s so easy and tactile to use for visually impaired people like myself is a real bonus.

I need to earn my treats

At least this current lockdown is in winter, if I’m honest I’m not missing the freezing cold and rain. I struggle with balance because I can’t see how even or uneven the ground is when I run outside and don’t have the ability to focus on things. Which means even in fair weather I have to be careful. Running in the snow or when it’s icy or frosty, is a nightmare and very dangerous for visually impaired people and I try to avoid it at all costs. At least with a treadmill there are no trip hazards and it’s never frosty or wet – always consistent conditions and having that familiarity is a bonus. Plus on a treadmill I can listen to music, a podcast or even one of my audiobooks.

The tether I use when running outdoors with my guide

In good weather, I would normally run outside 4 times a week, sometimes 5 if park run is on if I can get guides. There’s a big difference from running outside to running on the treadmill. When I’m outside running with my guide runner we use a piece of rope which is in a figure of 8. I hold onto one end and my guide holds onto the other We only hold on with two fingers because if my guide falls I would let go and visa versa, it’s no good us both falling. I have the easy part – I just put one foot in front of the other, smile and enjoy. My guide runner has the trickier work – they are looking everywhere to make sure I don’t catch my toes on bumps, holes or cracks – the smallest thing can trip me up. They are looking for other hazards like twigs, branches, rubbish, dog mess, cyclists, loose dogs, other runners. We even had loose horses one day. They are watching where my feet land as well as looking after themselves. The guide runner has the hard work it can be physically and mentally draining but it can make the guide feel amazing. My guide tells me they love running with me and enjoy my company. Outside I smell the flowers, the grass etc. I can hear the birds and what is in my environment and my guides tells me what’s around us. On the treadmill, I normally put a story on my kindle that I can listen to or get Google to play music. I need to hold on with one hand because I can’t tell whereabouts my feet are on the roller if I don’t. My NoblePro is so sturdy and there’s a choice where I can hold on, so I can switch arms and positions etc. On my treadmill I can wear shorts and a sports bra if I want because no one sees me like on the road. I’ve even got a pair of trainers that I only use on treadmill they are lovely and lightweight and I never run outdoors in them.

I need to hold on to keep me central on the belt

With race organisers being caught out last year rearranging races and then rearranging again there aren’t many races in the 2021 calendar yet. One of my favourite races is the Ashby 20 and they have decided to go with a virtual event for their 30 anniversary this year having cancelled the event in 2020. I love the hoodie they do each year so I’ve decided to enter it. I took part in 2017, 2018 and 2019 and really enjoyed it. I call it the double lollipop race because you start off on the stick, then two circles then finish back on the stick – well, that’s how my guide described it to me. I always call the first lap lemon and the second lap lime flavoured.

Each year you get a different coloured hoodie and a cheese cob – the colour and design of the hoodie are always a closely guarded secret. The hoodies are posted out this year but I’ve got to make my own cheese cob 🙂

Love my Ashby 20 hoodies

My friend Bob (who is also a guide) is going to adjust my training for it so I get used to running longer distances on my treadmill.

There might also be an option for me to run the actual virtual race on the road if we come out of lockdown, but if not I will be up to speed to run it all on the treadmill.

I wonder what colour the hoodie will be this year – pearl ?


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Netty Stevens
Netty Stevens
Blind runner, club athlete, club secretary, LiRF coach. I just love running (training and racing) and I love the running community.

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