One of the members of Team Racemenu, Josh Warren, works for the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and as one of their fundraisers, they have slots in the BAA 5K (and the marathon). The catch is that the 5K runners run the race blindfolded with a guide. It doesn’t sound that hard, right? Close your eyes, walk a little bit… not so bad, right? Yeah… I now have more respect than I could have ever imagined for visually impaired runners. You can support them here or here.
My guide is my brother in law Chris. He ran his first marathon in November, is doing his first triathlon in June, and I trust him in most things. Our first and only practice was last night. After listening to the instructor (Joe Q, a blind runner) teach the guides how to, well, guide the runners, we set out for a sighted lap while Joe ran with his guide and passed us all (this was so the guides could hear how to guide runners through a pack). It was then time to set off on 3 laps of blindfolded running.
This is easily the creepiest, scariest thing I’ve done in a long time. When you’re walking, you always have a foot on the ground and you can, most of the time, adjust your balance if you run into an object with your foot. When you’re running, there’s little there to save you. If you trip, you’ll likely go down. You can’t feel out for what’s out there in front of you. You must have complete trust in your guide, and even then…
Just putting on the blindfold and standing still, knowing you are about to run, is disconcerting. The first lap of the track consisted of very choppy steps as I adjusted to not knowing where I was putting my feet and ignored the crack of the softball bats and soccer players kicking balls on the edge of the infield. As we got another lap in, my steps grew with confidence, but I still spend much of the time elbow to elbow with Chris, using his elbow as a physical guide to where his body was and where I should go. He would count down the distance to the turns, tell me how far we were into the turn, and then let me know we were back on the straightaway. And still, the slightest change in environment, the slightest noise, the slightest change in pace was amplified. We rounded one of the corners and the lighting in my blindfold changed. Instinctively, I raised up my hands to protect myself from what I was sure was a lightpole. But there was nothing there, and we continued on. Eventually we completed a mile of running blindfolded, and while my confidence is there, this will easily be the most difficult 5K I’ve ever done.
I’ll post a recap of the race. Including some photos, perhaps, if anyone shows up to watch. You should watch, because I’ll be freaking out with 6,000 people running alongside me. None of whom I can see.
Josh had never run blindfolded before, so a couple of us decided that I would guide him for a lap. We made it 30 yards, as it was freaking him out. I don’t really blame him. Training was the first time he had ever met me, and having someone guide you who you don’t really know… I have no idea what that’s like.