Samantha's Story: Getting Me back
Samantha had perfect vision up until 2014. Before she lost her vision, she was very active - she did a BTec in Dance, went to the gym and ran on a regular basis. She found it very therapeutic and stress relieving. After a rapidly progressing Diabetic Retinopathy she became isolated, stopped going out, which caused depression and massive weight gain. Unfortunately the depression fed the isolation and weight gain and vice versa.
She decided to make a change after she was matched with her guide dog Lizzie.
Samantha tells her story
For me finding a guide to run with has been truly life changing. When I was diagnosed with Diabetic Retinopath, I was not able to do any form of exercise whilst I underwent several invasive surgeries to try and slow the progression of my eye condition.
I decided to make a change after I was matched with my guide dog Lizzie. I decided I needed to get 'me' back.
Starting marathon training
I applied to run the Virgin London Marathon in aid of Guide Dogs to give me something to work towards. Once I had my place I knew I needed to start training. In Oct 2017 I began very slowly, walking and jogging with my mum to build up my confidence. I was then lucky enough to meet Gary at a guide running taster morning where I met so many amazing licenced guides, and was informed of a national guide running database called Find a Guide.
Using Find a Guide to find a local Guide Runner
In November 2017 I used Find a Guide to contact a local guide called Mark Scott. I met up with him for coffee, (it was very nerve wracking to meet a complete stranger) to discuss what I intended and how he could support me. Straight away, my nerves dispersed and he made me feel at ease. Mark is an Ultra Marathon runner in his spare time so has reams of knowledge and experience. Since then, we have run every Saturday morning, increasing our mileage and working together to find new routes and places to run. I have run in new places and really enjoy exploring and enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of the outdoors. I can enjoy running and not stress knowing that my guide is supporting me. I also have a guide dog, Lizzie, Mark has been amazing with her too, we ran with her off lead for a while but now our mileage is higher she spends the morning at Mark's house with his wife Gill and their dog Jessie. Mark is not just my guide he is a true friend as is his wife. It has made me want to run more and more, when I'm not running, I want to be and I've truly got the running bug.
The benefits of running
Using Find a Guide and meeting Mark and the other guides has made me realise that there are some amazing friendly and helpful people who want to give up some time to help visually impaired people access running. Since starting my VI and guide running journey, I have helped to encourage other visually impaired people to try guide running and am a member of a VI and sighted guide running team taking part in Colchester Half Marathon to raise VI and sighted guide running awareness. Since running with a guide, I have lost quite a significant amount of weight, have more confidence, less isolated and gained some truly amazing friends!