It was the end of a busy training week. The previous weekend I smashed out my half marathon in Eton Dorney in 1.32 which I was very pleased with guided by the extremely quick Lucy Niemz. I then continued training through with another speedy session on Wednesday morning. I decided mid week to throw in a park run and fancied Victoria Park and approached Arron Cox to guide me. We had done Braunstone Park run a couple of weeks ago in 22.23. I knew I had a quicker park run in me than that and felt that with Vicky Park being so flat it would be the ideal place to see what I could do.
As Arron and I lined up in readiness to go I was keen that we were right at the front. At Braunstone Park Run we had positioned ourselves on the start line, only to find people had crept in front of us. This slowed us significantly at the start. So, my race strategy for Vicky Park (agreed with Arron prior to the race) was to come out of the blocks as fast as we could without tripping over anyone’s feet. Park runs are always a challenge if you are blind due to the amount of people traffic and any dog which may happen to stray in to your path.
Before the race I got introduced to another blind runner who was being guided by David Lodwick of Roadhoggs. It’s good to know that more and more visually impaired people are taking part in mass participation events such as park run.
We got counted down and both Arron and I went off like a bat out of hell. I could hear the tapping of my fellow runners’ shoes on the ground as we tried to find space. I must confess, that, even though I trust my guides, I do get very nervous that I will get tripped or trip someone else over. Every now and again Arron would say,
“we’ve got lots of room…you’re doing well…that’s it, let’s open up here.”
Arron was very descriptive and told me exactly what was happening. If there was a change in levels between the footpath and cycle path he would say,
“Your dropping down slightly mate…watch your footing.”
Around 5 minutes or so in to the run we took a sharp right. Suddenly Arron skidded, and I felt the tether getting taught. As he started to fall, I continued my forward momentum hoping that Arron would regain his footing. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen, and I was pulled down with Arron as the tether was looped around my wrist. There was no way of unhooking myself. In hindsight I should have just held the tether in my hand.
As I fell I tried my best to roll in to the fall. As I did the side of my head connected with the hard-concrete surface. I got up immediately as Arron pulled me up. An ambulance man who was running behind us kindly stopped and checked out my neck and head. He said,
“I work for East Midlands Ambulance and I’m just going to check that you are OK. Do you have any concussion? No? OK, then you can carry on.”
I was very grateful for the check over, so, if you are the guy who stopped, thank you so much. You are a star!
So, I dusted myself down and carried on. Arron said that on the second and third loop he was going to slow down for the sharp right hander, which he consequently did. When going around the second time Arron slipped again but managed to regain his footing. Unfortunately for me though, I managed to hit the deck again for the second time. My foot clipped another runners shoe when we were going along a particularly tight section. According to Arron there was a bench, a wheelchair and several runners to negotiate. And, we weren’t hanging around exactly. So, the inevitable occurred, and down I went again. I landed on my hand this time. I got up quicker and continued running. I couldn’t believe my bad luck. Surely my time was going to be worse than Braunstone?
Finally, we got to the finishing shoot. Despite all the knocks and falls we managed 21 minutes and 33 seconds. I think I would have been a minute quicker if I hadn’t wasted time rolling around on the floor.
My hand was extremely painful after the race with some referred pain going up my arm, so Arron kindly took me to A and E. I got checked out by the medics who gave me a clean bill of health, just some minor bruising. I spent at least 5 minutes of the 15 minutes talking to the Nurse about his sporting achievements and his future half Ironman ambitions.
I asked Arron later whether he would give park runs another go. His reply was,
“Absolutely. My confidence hasn’t been knocked. It was just unfortunate that the ground was slippery. We will just have to take those corners more easily.”
My thanks go out again to the ambulance man, those people who stopped to see that I was OK and the brilliant organisers and volunteers who help at the park run. The Race Director also very kindly dropped me a line later through messenger to check I was OK. Many thanks for that Heather.
I will be back soon to give it another go. Maybe this time I will remain on my feet and manage a sub 20-minute run.