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How blind runners completed Run Norwich 2018

PUBLISHED: 19:11 06 August 2018 | UPDATED: 10:15 07 August 2018

Edward Bates (right), and his guide Kelvin, as they made their way around the Run Norwich 2018 course. Photo: NNAB

Edward Bates (right), and his guide Kelvin, as they made their way around the Run Norwich 2018 course. Photo: NNAB

Archant

Of the thousands who took part in Run Norwich 2018, few had a tougher challenge ahead of them than Edward Bates and Mark Smith. The pair, who are both blind, explain what it is like to run with no sight.

Run Norwich, 2018.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYRun Norwich, 2018. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Mr Bates, 27, from Winterton-on-Sea, said: “I have done quite a few challenges for the Norfolk and Norwich Association for the Blind (NNAB), but this was definitely the scariest for me.

“I was born with no sight and I hadn’t been running for a very long time.

“But in January I had a day off and was looking through emails and a colleague said would I be interested in doing a fundraising run.

“I saw Mark was taking part and so I thought I should be getting involved too. Not necessarily because I am blind, but because I think you should have these life experiences.

The blind runners who took part in Run Norwich 2018. Photo:  Norfolk and Norwich Association for the BlindThe blind runners who took part in Run Norwich 2018. Photo: Norfolk and Norwich Association for the Blind

“I signed up and then met my guide Kelvin, who is one of our volunteers.

“We had our first proper training session around Eaton Park in June, but I had been doing a lot of individual training before then.

“It is hard for me to go for a run by myself, so I did a lot of running on a treadmill at the gym and at the office.

“I would hold onto the bars and move my thumb across the screen to increase the tempo. When it beeped, I knew it would go faster.

Run Norwich, 2018.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYRun Norwich, 2018. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

“When we had this training run in June, Kelvin and I had to work out the best way of keeping together.

“When you are walking, you can hold onto someone’s arm, but that doesn’t really work when running, so we tested a range of tethers.

“In the end, the best one we found was a tether used to pull a child’s scooter along because of its flexibility and length.

“I was nervous about the first time we went out, but it went surprisingly well.

Run Norwich, 2018.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYRun Norwich, 2018. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

“Kelvin told me where the obstacles were and would say ‘keep towards me, a bit more to the left, or a bit more to the right’.

“The build-up to the race was horrible and I felt incredibly nervous.

“Even though I had trained hard, I am not a runner.

“But the minute the gun went off, I suddenly felt better.

“We [Kelvin and I] were running side-by-side, and I was holding on all the time to that rope, because I would not be able get round without it.

“The sound of the crowd kept me going and people would shout saying how well we were doing.

“Some even said ‘oh wow, a blind runner’. It really surprised how many people were interested in that.

“I was able to take full strides while running and that was because I felt quite confident in Kelvin’s guidance.

“The last 1km was really hard for me, but suddenly there was this voice which said 400m.

“During the last 100m Kelvin gave me a countdown every ten metres and suddenly we were over the line.

“We did it in one hour and 14 minutes. I couldn’t believe it.”

Meanwhile, Mr Smith, 44, from Norwich, said: “This was my first time in an event like this.

“I hadn’t done much running since I had partial sight at school. I lost my vision in my 20s.

“But it was an opportunity to give myself a challenge and something to aim for.

“I did a lot training with a volunteer called Stuart and we would practice in the park.

“We started off with a few laps of Waterloo Park and built up to five miles along Marriott’s Way before the race.

“We used a strip of cloth which is around a foot-and-a-half long with two loops for each person to put their wrists through.

“Stuart would then tell me to veer left, or veer right, or tell me if there is a step coming up.

“You have to have a lot of confidence and trust in the person guiding you, but once you have built up a good rapport, it works fine.

“We used the tether all the time during the race.

“I know the city fairly well and I had read emails from organisers so I had a picture in my mind of where we would be running.

“It was a fantastic atmosphere on the day of the race and it helped spur me on.

“I finished the race in one hour and 35 minutes.”

To sponsor Mr Bates, visit uk.virginmoneygiving.com/EdwardBates1

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