Saturday 16th November, this was the fateful day I finally attended my first Parkrun. I know a few people that take part in these around the UK, but for myself I didn’t know what to expect. Just to be clear at this point, I did not follow the example of my friends, I did not run it. Admittedly, it is due to a medical issue but that did not stop me attending.
I’ve always wanted to do a Parkrun, but never had the confidence to do it. How good would the guiding be? Had they had VI participants before? Would I feel welcome or feel like a burden? Would I be encouraged? … … …
Well anyway, after some persuasion (and a pinch of guilt tripping!) I decided it was time to screw up my courage and try it. Especially after reading Dan’s running story via the STORM Blog page and seeing the positive experience he’s had.
So, I arrived at 8:30am (which in itself was an achievement as i’m really not a morning person!) where I was slightly unsure of where I was suppose to be going, not a great start, and then I walked into an orange cone … oops. Anyway, I headed towards where I was told the group met up – by the way, I knew the vague area as I had contacted my local Parkrun via email beforehand and asked a couple of questions first, which I found really helpful. Very quickly I found the group and they were very welcoming. They had seen me “find” the cone and had verbally guided me out of the way of obstacles.
Once some introductions were done and the volunteers had a short briefing – including that it was my first Parkrun #cringe. I made my way over to the start line with my guided walkers Adrian and Ann. Before the run begins all participants are also given a short briefing. This is where they announce first timers, milestone runs and special occasions. The things I found interesting was that it was my local’s 69th Parkrun in total and that the participants this particular day were helping to support National Epilepsy Awareness Month – be #SeizureSavvy! We were told some facts and statistics about Epilepsy and once this was done, the run began.
So, the part you’re probably more interested in than all my babbling so far! Being involved as a VI participant. I must say, I am ashamed to say I was pleasantly shocked by how helpful, welcoming and encouraging every single person was, and this included other runners, general public and my sighted guides. Ok, at the beginning there were a lot of “this way” or “that way”, but soon they realised how unhelpful these types of directions are! Other than this right at the start, it was such a fantastic experience.
I’d walked in the park before so I had a general idea of the route around, but having my guides made it really easy. I walked on my own using my white stick as a general guide, and as the upcoming bends appeared, my sighted guides would give me prewarning and they also gave me specific instructions when we came up to the slight diversion that was in place specifically as part of the run course. It was as easy as having a general walk in the park, though obviuosly with a bit more effort put in. Even though I wasn’t running I did want to put some effort in, so it became my Park Power Walk.
My guides had conversations with me on the way and we got to know each other a little, helping me to feel really comfortable putting my trust in them. I found it really interesting when Ann informed me that, making me converse, was also a way they use to measure your breathing. This was interesting as I’m asthmatic and I’d not have realised that without it being pointed out.
So, tips! Contact your local Parkrun first in case you have any questions or worries (you can do this via the Parkrun website), ensure that you let them know beforehand if you are planning to attend and need a any sighted assistance or other support, ensure you have a good pair of comfortable trainers, find out exactly where the group meet and then go with an open mind. It may end up being extremely fun. For me i’ll definitely do it again but it’ll be much more for some Saturday morning cardio and for a bit of fun. I’m not going to be the fastest nor do I want to be. But it will be a great way to start my Saturdays – even if you just want to reach those massively important 10,000 steps on your Apple Watch’s activity tracker!
By Megan Price