Being blind introduces a number of challenges in my daily life; certain tasks can only be completed with support or guidance. I wont bore you with the psychological effects and the stressors involved, I will just say its stressful.
Running is my way to alleviate stress, concentrating on my breathing and pace allows me to drift away. Historically I used a guide runner to aid with my running, as running on the roads and blindness is a dangerous mix. I began using RunKeeper while I had my guide runner, it gave me a great sense of control. The audio cues allowed me to feel in control of my pace and not rely on input from my guide. This frankly felt great for the first time ever I was able to give pacing information to my guide rather than the other way round.
Then I lost my guide runner, with university calling he moved to another city and I was left with one option: the treadmill. Now the treadmill at first would appear the ideal solution after all it offers a very low risk of death. But the treadmill itself offers a number of issues that actually removed control from me and into the hands of a guide. The majority of treadmills now feature touch screens, pretty useless to someone who is unable to see the screen, I wouldn’t be able to change speed or incline, I wouldn’t know how far I had run or indeed for how long. I could of course of used Nike+ for this information but it wouldn’t solve the actual operation of the treadmill.
So instead I chose something with may of appeared impossible: run solo on the roads with RunKeeper. I memorised a 3-mile stretch of pavement and began practicing. With each dip, lamppost and foreign object memorised and paired with distance audio cues through RunKeeper I was now in control. RunKeeper allowed me to break free of the shackles of guide runners and feel a true sense of control and freedom. It is difficult to express the difference one iPhone app has made, not only my running but my life as a whole. For those 5 runs a week I forget I am blind and just run, RunKeeper made me just like everyone else on those 3 miles of pavement.
RunKeeper has not only allowed me to run solo but also kept my dream of running a 100-mile race alive. Finding a guide runner who shared the same goals as me had proved difficult; no one was willing to train to that distance. But now I have a running partner that doesn’t complain about the long runs and lactic acid, they simply deliver my audio cues that keep me running. So this June armed with RunKeeper I will be attempting the Cotswolds 100.