Gary Perryman, a runner from Great Horkesley, staged the first of six test runs for his ‘Run/Walk in the Park VI Group’ - with more to follow at the Parkruns at Clacton, Great Cornard, Harwich, Maldon and Mersea Island.
Five visually-impaired people ran in Castle Park accompanied by a sighted guide runner – all alongside the normal crowd of 400 or so who regularly complete this five-kilometre, free-to-enter, Saturday morning event.
Explained Gary: “My group is being created to help visually-impaired people gain access to guided running and walking in and around Colchester, and also to give people the chance to become a sighted guide, either just at Parkruns, or on a more formal basis where you become licensed and are added to a Find-a-Guide database.”
The launch was hailed a success, and the plan is for the initiative to become weekly, rotating between the six local Parkruns. The aim is to promote socialising as much as exercise and general well-being, and Saturday’s participants enjoyed the great atmosphere generated in the park and the post-run socialising in the cafe.
The five people guided around the course ranged from nine to 63 years old. Jolene was helped by first-time guide Theresa Higgins, a borough Councillor and former Colchester Mayor, while Samantha was accompanied by her guide and mum Linda Millar. Gary guided Guy, who has now completed 13 Parkruns, having previously quit running 25 years ago, following a brain tumour that led to his sight loss. Nine-year-old Cameron was partnered by licensed guide Jennifer Wright. 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.
Gary added: "A well-earned sit down and good chat was had at the Leisure World Coffee shop by all participants after the Parkrun, to round off a lovely morning. I would like to say a huge thank you to all involved in making it such a great occasion, from other Parkrun participants for their amazing encouragement, to Run Director John Wheatley and his wonderful volunteers for putting on such a great Parkrun and of course the VI participants and guides."
Anyone interested in joining up with the group, or wants more information about becoming a sighted guide, should contact Gary by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org