Simon first started guide running in 2016 when his wife volunteered him to help her guide run twin girls they know in their village.
Simon tells his story
I was a bit apprehensive, but it was a fantastic experience running with twins who couldn’t see where they were going and after a while we somehow managed to guide them round our local Junior parkrun without any accidents.
From that moment I was sold on guide running, but I did feel the need to get some training. They were putting their trust in me and I owed them a duty of care to be able to do it properly.
Attending the England Athletics Sight Loss Awareness and Guide Running workshop
Both my wife and I decided to go on the England Athletics Sight Loss Awareness and Guide Running workshop, a short course that allows you to put yourself in the shoes of a visually impaired runner and run blindfolded, guided by a fellow participant. Probably my scariest moment on two legs, running blindfolded on a rugby pitch, convinced I was about to smack into the posts!
It’s actually a great course and I picked up some valuable techniques on how to give instruction on turns, steps, uneven terrain etc as well as learning about the different types of visual impairment and trying on glasses that replicated different types of sight loss. 18 months later and the techniques I learnt on the course are still in the forefront of my mind when guiding.
We've ran with the twins on a regular basis since then, helping them to run 5k and 10ks while also attending an event ran by British Blind Sport and Northamptonshire sport, designed for visually impaired children to help them try their hand at a variety of sports.
A Guide Runner at the London Marathon
It was around that time that I was contacted by Agata, another visually impaired runner, via the Find a Guide database, as she was about to start work in neighbouring Daventry for a few months in the summer. After running together a few times, Agata asked me to guide her at her first half marathon and it wasn’t long before Agata had decided (with a bit of persuasion!) to run the London Marathon.
From that point, my running priorities changed from concentrating on my own running and instead focusing more on the challenge of guiding Agata to London whilst also supporting the twins on their runs.
It’s maybe an age thing but you reach the point where the pleasure in helping others develop and reach amazing heights outweighs your own personal achievements or desire for PBs. It’s fair to say that guide running has totally changed my priorities and that any guide run I do is better than any run I’ll complete on my own. I still do the majority of my runs on my own or with my local running club and my races are typically a mix of guided and solo runs.
Being inspired by my runners
Agata doesn’t consider herself inspirational and I don’t think the twins do either, but they absolutely are, they are the most inspirational people I know. Being blind does not make them inspirational. It’s their positive, can do approach to life and the enthusiasm they demonstrate that is so inspiring. They put their trainers on, put their faith in their guide runners and just run. There is a real bond between guide and runner, a combination of the trust the runner has in the guide and the admiration the guide has in the runner for overcoming their fears. And it’s great fun. On our long runs Agata and I discuss politics, religion and generally put the world to rights, while the twins, despite me trying to describe the surroundings, pretty much just want to talk about football!
So that’s why I’m a licenced guide runner and so proud to support visually impaired runners to gain the same pleasure from running that I do.