When I did that Guide Running course organised by England Athletics last year, part of their longer-term plan was to get a database of qualified guides for visually impaired runners up on their website. They had a theory that, just as loads of other people have started running and were taking part in 'couch-to-5km' programmes and heading out to parkrun, there were also loads of visually impaired runners out there too who wanted to start running but had a few more obstacles to overcome before they could get out of the door.
It took them a while to get that database off the ground, but it's online now and I've been contacted three times in the last few months by people in the Nottingham area who were looking for a guide to help them get out and running. I ran with one at Colwick parkrun earlier this year; another asked me if I would be happy to guide them to a 3hr 45m marathon (happy? I'd be delighted to be able to run a marathon that quickly... even more so if I was somehow magically able to do it whilst guiding a VI runner). The third contacted me a little while ago, but because I was marathon training and he was busy moving house, we were never able to make it work.
Until this evening, when we had a little 6-and-a-bit mile pootle along the canal with my running club. We didn't run all that fast, to be honest, but I don't think it really mattered. Nick has just done a half marathon in 2:04 and is looking to train up for the Robin Hood full this summer and for London next year, so is clearly capable of going faster than we ran tonight, but we were feeling each other out and seeing if we could make this work. He has other guides, but he's looking to get as many as he can so that he can manage all the training runs he's going to need to do without being totally reliant on one or two people. I won't be running a marathon with him, but I'm happy to train with him when I can, especially if he makes things so easy for me as to meet at a running club session just up the road from me that I already attend most weeks anyway. It felt good.
When I guide Terry at Colwick, he always worries that I'm giving up a run so I can escort him round. That's nonsense, of course. If I felt like that, I don't think I would do it and I run with him because I enjoy it. It seems like such a little thing to do, to take someone round to enjoy something that I love to do and that they can't do on their own. It helps when you're with someone as great as Terry, but actually I've enjoyed all of the guiding that I've done. Nick and I had a good rattle as we ran and he seems like a decent guy. I only dropped him the once, and he said he really enjoyed it, so perhaps it will be a regular thing. I'm also probably available for weddings, bar mitzvahs, funerals... Just talk to my agent.
One thing I don't understand is why England Athletics gave me a card to prove that I'm a guide runner. They were really fussy about the picture too, so I've ended up with one that I took in a meeting room at work to meet their required standards, and as a result I mostly look cross. There's some tiny print writing on the back too, indicating that I've been CRB checked and have qualified to guide. I'm not sure how they're expecting this to work with a runner who is visually impaired: am I supposed to read it out to them and describe how I look in the photo so they can do the touching-your-face thing from the Lionel Richie video? I'm not convinced that they've thought this all the way through....