New project will help the visually-impaired to run in Essex and Suffolk
PUBLISHED: 11:30 06 February 2019 | UPDATED: 14:01 06 February 2019
A project to help visually-impaired people enjoy running events has been launched in conjunction with parkruns in the north Essex area.
Organiser Gary Perryman, an experienced club runner from Great Horkesley, plans six test runs and the first took place in Colchester featuring the visually-impaired (VI) group he has created called ‘A Run/Walk in the Park’. More test runs will follow at Clacton, Great Cornard, Harwich, Maldon and Mersea Island.
Five visually-impaired people ran in Castle Park accompanied by a sighted guide runner – alongside the normal crowd of 400 or so who regularly complete this 5k, free-to-enter, Saturday morning event.
Gary, a member of Tiptree Road Runners, explained: “My group is being created to help visually-impaired people gain access to guided running and walking in and around Colchester. It also gives people the chance to become a sighted guide, either just at parkruns, or on a more formal basis where they become licensed and are added to a Find-a-Guide database.”
The launch was hailed a success, and the plan is for the group to appear weekly, rotating between the six local parkruns. The aim is to promote socialising as much as general well-being, and the test-run participants enjoyed the atmosphere in Castle Park and a post-run gathering in a nearby cafe.
The five people guided around the course ranged from nine to 63 years old. Jolene Clark was helped by first-time guide Theresa Higgins, a borough councillor and former Colchester Mayor, while Samantha Leftwich was accompanied by her guide and mum Linda Millar.
Gary guided Guy Barlow, who has now completed 13 parkruns, having previously quit running following a brain tumour that led to sight loss.
Nine-year-old Cameron Clark was partnered by licensed guide Jennifer Wright, of Ipswich JAFFA.
Quickest of the visually-impaired quintet was Wali Mohammad Hussain Khail, guided by ‘Team Together’ founder Gareth Gailey, who are in training to run the Virgin London Marathon together in April. Guide dogs Zena and Lizzie were also in attendance at the event.
Visually-impaired people interested in the project, or in becoming a sighted guide, should contact Gary by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org