When Alison lost her sight, she was worried that she’d never run again, but she is now competing in sprint triathlons.
A brain haemorrhage and four strokes in 2005 cost Alison her sight. Seeking help, she contacted British Triathlon for a way to participate in sport again, and the organisation introduced her to volunteer guide Roz McGinty. The partnership has been hugely rewarding for both women.
1) Alison: I have always been active and enjoyed swimming, badminton and table tennis, but sport of any kind no longer seemed an option. Roz had not had any training as a guide so we just went for a few runs to get used to running together.
Guides are often just as nervous as me, maybe even more so. In November 2014, Roz guided me at my first Parkrun. When I crossed the finish line I remember being really pleased that I had been able to complete the course and I wanted to do another one.
2) Alison: The atmosphere at Parkrun is fantastic and I love being with other people who are running and encouraging each other. Not being able to see where I am is a bit unnerving sometimes but the enjoyment of running is so much greater than the nerves.
I rely on sound – listening to the directions from my guide and feeling what I can through the tether or contact. I’m not worried about tripping when I run because bumps and bruises are more likely to happen when I’m walking along the street.
3) Alison: This September, Roz guided me in a sprint triathlon. I would love to step up to Olympic distance, and plan to run a marathon one day. Without Roz I would not be able to take part in the sports I love. My advice to any visually impaired person who wants to try running is three simple words – do a Parkrun!
4) Roz: I had no training as a guide but Alison was a brilliant teacher! She has a little rubber device with a handle at either end. We used to just hold a handle each but over time I have adapted to putting it on my elbow.”
5) Roz: Running outside is very different and much more difficult for Alison than the treadmill she had been used to so we employed a run/walk strategy. Alison was grinning from ear-to-ear the whole time. We ran/walked for five miles on our first outing. I suggested going to Parkrun. I felt that running surrounded by so many others would be good for her.
Also getting an official time made it feel like more of an event. We had a few funny moments trying to avoid falling into the lake! People were giving us so much encouragement that we were both buzzing afterwards.
I cannot recommend guiding enough. It is just so rewarding. I used to hate running 5K but these have truly been the best 5Ks I have ever run.”