BY KATHY MCLEISH SAT 19 AUG 2017, 10:42 AM AEST – ABC News
Photo of runners & guides courtesy of Casey Hyde
Running has been called the world’s most accessible sport, but elite para-triathlete Casey Hyde says in reality it is not open to everyone.
Hyde runs, rides, and swims while tethered to a trained guide to keep her on track, and was the first blind woman to complete the Ironman Western Australia.
Her quest to get more vision impaired people out in their running shoes has been changing lives.
“If I can give them encouragement to show them how to walk, jog and run, that’s a new activity for them,” she said.
“Exercise is great for depression and anxiety and stress,” she said.
“We get a lot of ‘your guide dog’s not allowed,’ ‘you’re not allowed,’ the no’s are quite overwhelming, when someone says ‘Yes, you can do it, here’s a guide,’ that is a new friend you make and the anxiety and stress disappears.”
She helped kick off two new vision-impaired (V-I) running groups in Brisbane as part of Parkrun — an organisation that holds free timed runs every week for several million people in 15 countries around the world.
V-I runner Barbara Clarke has been amazed with the difference a 5-kilometre walk makes.
“It finishes at around 8:00am and I think I’ve got the whole day ahead of me, what can I do with my day?” she said
“Before I came to parkrun I would be in bed until 11:00am and then get up and think, the days’ gone now I might as well sit down and watch TV and do nothing, but I’ve joined the gym now, I’ve got two gym buddies.”
She said when blind runners join the groups, it is a big a step into the unknown.
“Every time you walk out your front door you’re walking into an unknown obstacle course.”
How to run without having ever seen someone do it
Casey Hyde said one of the biggest challenges is that many blind people have never seen anyone running — and if you haven’t seen it, you can’t do it.
“Mostly I teach the blind people how to run on a hill so they don’t fall over, but if they run on a flat they fall over,” she said.
It can be scary for the running guides too. As part of their training they run blindfolded. Guide Wendy Crompton said it was terrifying.
“It was a path I know like the back of my hand and I could not run,” she said.
“I salute these visually impaired runners — I couldn’t do it.”
Organiser Gareth Saunders said 170 people have signed up to help out.
“We have way more guides than V-I’s which is an incredible problem to have, the response has been great, surprising but incredible,” he said.