On Sunday the 19th of September, more than 10,000 runners took to the streets for the return of the Great Bristol Run. The event featured the UK's first-ever dedicated 10k race for blind and partially sighted people after local guide runner Colin Johnson asked that The Great Run Company include a race to encourage people with sight loss to take part. Over 70 runners and guides were at the start line and took off in the Visually Impaired (VI) Runners 10K Challenge just a few minutes ahead of the mass start for the 10k and half marathon races on Anchor Road.
British Blind Sport spoke with Colin Johnson and Chris Blackabee to find out more about the event and how to get involved in VI running.
Colin started running 25 years ago when he entered the Bristol half marathon. He first came across guide running when he met Chris, who needed a guide to get him through his first marathon. Together, they co-founded VI Runners Bristol, a local club for blind and partially sighted people to try running. Colin has worked closely with Great Run to create the Bristol VI Challenge, which has been an ambition of his for almost three years. He says, “The goal was to try and raise awareness of VI running because there is currently only a tiny fraction of blind and partially sighted people that do get out and run, and the benefits can be enormous with mental well-being and self-belief. The race has been a great success in spreading the word and we have had lots of positive feedback. I hope that it will be the start of others doing similar events.”
Chris Blackabee, who is blind, has run marathons and other races with the help of a guide. He says that running has given him a sense of freedom. “When you're out navigating with a cane, you have to be on your guard. Being with a guide relieves this pressure. The lockdown made me realise how important it is, now more than ever, to have access to sport and physical activity. There are a lot of people out there who aren't aware of opportunities for blind or partially sighted people. The Bristol VI 10k Challenge aimed to raise awareness of VI running and get as many people involved as possible. It was the first time an event like this was held in the UK. The atmosphere on the day was electric. I really hope to see some familiar faces from this year's event on the start line of the next race and hope that the enthusiasm from many of the participants will encourage and inspire others to join the fun!"
One participant commented, "I was a bit emotional on the start line surrounded by so many VI Runners. I just loved being part of the crowd and not standing out as a bit of a lone warrior."
If you, or someone you know, would like to take part, visit www.greatrun.org/bristol to sign up for the reminder service for the 2022 event.
About Find a Guide
Find a Guide is a growing database of trained, licenced Guide Runners created by British Blind Sport and England Athletics to help you start or continue running safely. We have guides for runners of all skill levels, so whether you're a novice or a seasoned runner, the database will help you find the right guide for you. Visit https://runtogether.co.uk/get-involved/find-a-guide/ for more information or to get started.
About VI Runners Bristol
VI Runners Bristol is a local club for blind or partially sighted people who want to try running. They have a team of England Athletics-trained running guides who can take you from running or walking to running or walking a marathon. Running improves not only your physical health but also your mental health and self-confidence. The club meets every week on Wednesday evenings for a run followed by a visit to a local pub. If you would like to get involved, please contact Colin Johnson at ActiveCity@bristol.gov.uk or visit the club's website at: https://www.bristolactivecity.org.uk/portfolio-items/vi-visually-impaired-runners-bristol/