As lockdown stretches into another 3 weeks, it seemed like an increasingly good idea to get fit. Not one to do things by halves, I’ve decided to run 100km to raise money for charity. The event may or may not take place, but the training goes on. I would describe myself as two Mo Farahs, weighing exactly twice as much and running half his speed. Someone I passed the other day characterised my style as “more wobble than run”, but I am undeterred!

Sight loss

I’ve been partially sighted for a very long time with a non-specific Macular degeneration – this means I’ve got no central vision. So no detail, and age means I’m also short sighted, with other chunks of my visual field beginning to disappear. I am confident moving in my own space, but the world can look a little weird at times. Just the other day someone walked towards me in day glow trousers. All I saw were the trousers walking independently down the street.

Running

So, to the running – or wobbling. I try and wear something bright that attracts attention as people do not know that I am partially sighted. I’ve never worn anything that says I’m visually impaired, but vests and tabards are available if you want them. I tend to run familiar routes, but you can’t account for changes like road works. If I want an easy life then I have the option of going to a nearby empty car park or field and simply run round in circles. There are plenty of empty car parks at this moment in time. The trick is to avoid any barriers or kerbs on the way in. If you are able to see the lines you can use them for shuttle runs.

Picking the time of day is crucial: I try and run early in the morning but regularly make the rookie mistake of forgetting sunrise changes slightly every day, meaning often I can’t see very much at all on the way home. I’ll definitely be paying more attention to the sun going forward.

Tracking your run

A smart phone is great for tracking distance and time and wireless earphones can give you feedback. I’ll challenge myself by setting the countdown timer and leaving the focus on the clock, Voiceover then provides a running commentary as the time runs down. I limit any noise input to one ear and that to a minimum volume so I can remain aware of what’s around me. I listen for people approaching, but my problem is if they just stand still I don’t see them. Another thing I’ve learnt the hard way is that if you see a dog and person a distance apart they may be connected by a long invisible (to me) lead. Trust me, running into a long lead doesn’t go well for anyone.

Social distancing on a run

Listening out for others only goes so far. This morning whilst out I socially isolated myself from two parking machines, a bin and a CCTV pole. So, my runs are a little longer as I COVID-swerve around inanimate objects. There is a challenge of course in completing the COVID-swerve when you can’t give eye contact or signal directions with your eyes – you can find yourself swerving into the person you’re trying to avoid. I’ve taken to turning my head and body to clearly indicate which way I’m going, which works most of the time.

Other obstacles

Checking the depths of steps, stairs and kerbs is difficult particularly when you are running. Only this morning I felt the adrenaline rush and feeling of weightlessness as I floated off the top of a flight of stairs. The only way to counter this is to recce the route before running and become familiar with obstacles and, of course, approach with caution! I’m lucky enough to have miles of traffic free path available to me, a giant unused car park or grassy areas, to run fee and unaided. If you are not so lucky or need a guide then alternatives might come in the shape of skipping, running on the spot or following many of the workouts currently available online.

Top tips for running alone

So top tips for running alone: plan the route; factor in the light and position of sun. Choose a time when few people are about. Avoid bin day. Wear something bright. If in doubt take no chances. Take your phone.

Stay safe and have fun. Check out Metro Blind Sport, or Andy Law's blog for more tips and inspiration!

Written by Jonathan Ward, London Vision Development Manager

21 April 2020