Damian Mason sets sight on helping the visually impaired to run
Joining us at our start line on Sunday 3rd April is Damian Mason, aged 52 from Whitchurch in Shropshire, who has recently qualified as a Guide Runner so as to support visually impaired people to go running.
Guide Runners support visually impaired and blind people to run by providing verbal direction or running with a tether. Damian was inspired to get the qualification when he encountered a guide supporting a visually impaired runner during the London Marathon in 2019:
“In 2019, I ran the London Marathon and was really struggling. I had hit the wall and my legs had gone. It was then that I saw a guide and a sight impaired runner going great at a decent pace. It inspired me to finish – and from that day on I knew I wanted to become a Guide Runner and to also support Sense in their work for the visually impaired.”
Damian completed his Guide Runner training in September 2021 through England Athletics. The training includes doing workshops in a classroom about sight loss and how to make running sessions with someone with a visual impairment safe and fun. There is then a practical element where trainees practice guiding. An important thing Damian learnt was how to give clear verbal instructions such as ‘curve left’, which can be accompanied by a physical cue such as tugging gently on a tether.
After qualifying Damian became eligible to join the Find a Guide forum, an online database which allows visually impaired people to search for certified Guide Runners in their local area. Whilst Damian waits to be paired with his runner, he decided to enter the Therme Manchester Marathon to raise money for the national disability charity Sense, an official charity partner of the Manchester Marathon 2022. Sense support children and adults with complex disabilities, including those with sight and hearing impairments.
This will be Damian’s second marathon, and he aims to complete the race in under 4 hours. His dream is now to one day guide a person around a marathon.
When we asked Damian about why he would recommend going through the Guide Runner training, he said:
“People should sign up to become a Guide Runner to ensure people with visual impairments have the opportunity to go out running – something everyone should have the opportunity to do if they want to. My course also taught me more about visual impairment and the challenges people face. We should all be more aware of disability issues and challenge the assumptions we might have.”
To find out more about England Athletics’ Guide Runner training, visit: https://www.englandathletics.org/athletics-and-running/our-programmes/find-a-guide/become-a-guide-runner/
Sense is a national disability charity that supports people living with complex disabilities, including those who are deafblind, to communicate and experience the world. Sense supports children, young people and adults in their home and in the community, in their education and transition to adulthood and through its holidays, arts, sports and wellbeing programmes. In addition to practical support to families, Sense also offers information advice, short breaks and family events, and campaigns for the rights of people with complex disabilities to take part in life. For more information please visit www.sense.org.uk