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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Running

If you are interested in running for recreation and enjoy generally good health, then by all means pursue it. Naturally you'll need to factor your vision loss into your routine. Here are a few tips to consider before going forward:

Find a health club that features adaptations for people with low vision. Some clubs have a specially adapted track with handrails or guide wires that enable you to trail at your own pace and without assistance. These handrails are excellent for endurance training.

Find a running mate. Whether you plan to run on an indoor track at a health club or outdoors in a park or country road, it's a good idea to have a sighted partner accompany you. You may want to start out by grasping your guide's arm above the elbow or by the wrist until you feel more confident. Some prefer the tether method in which you and your sighted partner stay connected by a hand-held rope or cord about two feet in length. Eventually, you may feel confident enough to run independently, with your guide running behind you, giving verbal directions and prompts when needed.

Choose the right guide. First, your guide has to be safety-conscious with good judgment. Risk takers need not apply. Also, pace is important to the serious runner so you'll want to find a guide who is at least slightly stronger than you. Guides need to be able to talk and run at the same time, and they need to have enough energy while running to pay attention to what's going on around them. If you're running at your top speed and they're hanging on for dear life, they won't be able to tell you much about potholes and traffic. Last but not least, make sure you choose someone you like and enjoy spending time with.

Educate your guide. New guides are often nervous, and not without reason. They often aren't sure what to do, how hard to pull on the tether, how much to tell you and when, etc. Here are some tips you can share with your guide to make the job easier:

  • Be explicit. You can tell your guide: "When you say, 'Be careful here,' it doesn't tell me anything. On the other hand, saying 'The ground is a little rough here' tells me what I need know."

  • Action first; then the background. If your guide says something like, "We're coming up on a crowd of people standing on the path, so...," then you won't know what to do until it's too late. Rather, tell your guide to say: "Move right, we're coming up on a crowd of people."

  • Bring up decisions over route changes and the like before they have to be made. Reaching the fork in the road is NOT the time to discuss whether to go right or left. Your guide should let you know it's coming up well in advance.

  • The guide should speak up when obstacles ahead can't be avoided—and he or she shouldn't forget to give you explicit directions, such as "Curb up" or "Sharp turn to the right."

  • Have your guide tell you about points of interest as you pass them—drinking fountains, statues, public restrooms, etc. This will give you a sense of where you are, whether or not you want to stop, and how far you have to go.

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