This annual event, now in it’s third year, ran by the Royal London Society for Blind People, is to raise funds and awareness for the charity and give participants the opportunity to experience what it’s like for people with visual impairments to run and also what it’s like to be a guide runner.
Pairs take on either the 5k or 10k distance, one wears the rather snazzy blindfold supplied while the other guides them through the course. It is ran on a 2.5k lap around the outskirts of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park with the option of swapping with your partner from being blindfolded to being the guide after each lap.
Quirky Races creator Chris headed to London along with running partner Pete to take it on. Here’s our event video and Chris’ review:
After two very short practice sessions both in the last few days building up to the main event Pete and I arrived in the capital expecting a fun run that would also be challenging in a way we’d never been tested before.
As we are both fairly strong 10k runners (I have a PB of 33 mins and Pete’s is 35 mins) we were confident of being able to do quite well but I was a little more apprehensive of how long it would take to get used to literally running blind whereas Pete seemed expectant that we could get down to 7 minute mile pace almost straight away. Lucky it was him wearing the blindfold first then!
After a countdown from 10, along with 100 other pairs, we were off. Within a matter of seconds we were at the front much to Pete’s joy as I informed him. I suggested we start steady feeling our way into the run but Pete wanted to get an early lead and he was the one doing the work this lap so I obliged. I suppose I could have just told him we were well ahead and he’d of been none the wiser but I knew it would soon be my turn in the dark and this event is all about putting trust in your guide so I did as he wished and put my foot down.
Running in a straight line was the easy bit and most of the pathways were wide so there were plenty of sections where we could push on and use our speed but there was also several more tricky bits which involved lots of communication.
After the first stretch of approximately 600 meters we were tasked with taking a left turn to run back on ourselves. This offered the first opportunity to view how much of a lead we had. I estimated it at 30 meters. Pete wasn’t comfortable with this but did however seem very comfortable with running blind. He’d taken to it like a duck to water and instructed we push the pace on again. After a sharp right turn came the next long straight where we began to increase the gap.
We were now heading over the bridge towards the Olympic stadium but then took another right turn away from it and onto the first of the narrower paths. At the end of this, and another right turn, came the trickiest section on the course. A snaking downhill path with a sharp turn at the bottom leading to a thinner walkway with water on the lefthand side.
Now well over half way around the lap the route again went back on itself allowing for another chance to see where our closest competitors where. As we ran uphill I got a little shock when a saw that they’d actually made up some ground on us and weren’t far behind.
We were still feeling fresh though and with Pete’s first stint with his eyes covered nearing it’s end we picked up the pace again. Back over the bridge and the final turn of the lap negotiated we were on the final straight before bearing left and passing the start/ finish arch.
2.5k done and now it was my turn to play blind. Pete had got used to it very quickly and we’d struck up a good rhythm. That now had to start all over again and I wasn’t finding the acclimation as easy. The first straight felt very awkward and I nervously flinched several times. Pete’s advise was to just forget about what I was actually doing and just concentrate on my normal running style. This really helped and I was soon into my stride and quickening my pace.
At the same points we were able to get some intelligence on our lead. It was getting bigger and bigger with the next two runners now out of sight (or so I was informed anyway) but as we came to the narrow sections again we began to catch the back markers. This meant we had to slow considerably and take a lot more care as it was now had to take other people into account as well as the environment and surroundings. It was good to know that everyone was going through the same experiences and there was a really friendly feel with all participants doing their best to help out and encourage one another on.
Although I was enjoying this new and completely different way of running the more I got into it I must admit I was still looking forwards to the lap ending so that I could get back into my normal comfort zone and within a flash we had completed another lap and were at the half way point.
Now that we had both had a go at both aspects of this unique run any anxious feeling had banished and we were ready to take it all on again. I would certainly say that Pete was better as the blindfolded runner and I was better as the guide, although I did get my left and right mixed up a couple of times which isn’t good in this situation.
Another circuit completed while lapping fellow pairs almost the entire way it way my duty to finish the job and secure the victory. Pete had some how manage to lose his blindfold on lap two meaning we now had to do more of a transition but with that completed smoothly he even had time to stop to do up his shoelace on the final lap with us still coming home clear in first place. The medals we hung around our necks and for the first time since before the start we could both see at the same time again.
We watched lots of others coming in, all with big smiles on their faces before heading home with a sense of accomplishment, not mealy at winning because this wasn’t a completive event but just at completing something that many cant even do and managing to do it in a completely quirky way, something that all 200 participants can share along with the more important stat that this event will raise up to £50,000 to help support 100 new families of blind and visually impaired children and babies.
The 2017 Blindfold Run will take place on Sunday 5th November at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park again. We have also been informed that the charity plan to hold a smaller Blindfold Run somewhere else next year with Birmingham being a strong possibility so look out for that.