I love running, and if my memory serves correct, I haven’t blogged about it yet at least here. It’s one of those sports that can fit nearly everyone, sometimes with some adaptations making it easier. So if you wondered if you can run while not having a perfect and typical sight, of course you can run. Let’s talk about some possible modifications.
This is probably easier to start with just modifications that work with less than perfect vision, read thru them, and then list in the bottom ideas towards more full blind experience.
To get started with running, all you need is some comfortable running shoes and running outfits. I would recommend having your shoes fitted at a sports store, so you can try different kinds, explain what kind of shoes you like, figure which works for your style, and then pick the pair you like within your budget. (To get started, $50 should get you a pair of comfortable trainers that will keep your feet happy). There are just so many kinds of shoes that it can be difficult to get started otherwise, with some shoes working for road, some for trail, some padded, some more barefoot style. Explain your likes, try different kinds of shoes, pick the ones that feel good. One of the modifications I do with all my running shoes is change the laces to no-tie shoelaces. Lock laces, The Friendly Swede, or some other brands. Most sports stores sell those, but if yours doesn’t, Amazon does. Some visually impaired runners keep the regular laces, but I prefer the no ties. That way one little thing less to worry. They won’t accidentally open, I won’t trip on them, and they don’t also get caught on the roots on a trail run. Both running shoes and those laces come in many colors these days, so pick colors that make you happy (even if definitely won’t see them while running).
Pick your shoes for the type of training you plan. So road, nature trails, and indoor running will all benefit from different kinds of features. (Some will work with more than one of those). The same goes for clothing. Especially if you’ll run outdoors, there are so many weather conditions and the temperature matters a lot. Pick some outfits that should work for your climate and start from that. I’ve discovered that I love sleeveless running tops, and capris or tight shorts. Those work perfectly with hot Texas running weathers. I’ve always been very conscious about showing off my shoulders and don’t always feel so sporty, but life is too short for worrying. So I go with bright, happy colors. The modification here is having more bright colors and sometimes visibility. BCG has “bioviz” brand, consisting of hats, tops and pants that have lots of reflective features. If you run in the dark or in nature, those are great. I’ve got many nice compliments for my bioviz pants on trail runs. On this visibility category I should probably also list the brightly colored vests for “blind runner” and “guide”. Those can be helpful both when training with someone, or when running in a race, so others will move out of your way.
With shoes and clothes sorted, accessorize and get ready for the runs. Comfortable sunglasses or colored shades and a baseball type hat for running are very comfortable. Sun heating your face and burning your eyes are not fun. Don’t forget the sun cream either. Oh, and probably music, but not so loud you can’t hear what happens around you. I love music when running, as it just makes everything better. I keep my phone out of the way in a running belt, and prefer wireless headphones. I keep an old iPhone for running purposes, so music, audiobooks etc, and with the added benefit of it still being a phone – if there was an emergency it would still be possible to dial 911 or 112 even without a sim card.
If you can find some running buddies, running will be more fun. Don’t worry about being too slow or a beginner, as everyone has to start somewhere. Learning some basic techniques for being a sighted runner guide could be fun for any runner. You’ll get to meet some new runners and help someone else achieve their goals, and, on the same time, also socialize.
Some people also manage to run without a guide. I can do that with my usual daily routes in bright daylight. I know every nook, where each stone and root and curb and crosswalk is, so I can run it by myself. That is why I always run the same route. I also run it with my other half. Running races are different, as I don’t know the routes, so that’s where I’ll need to figure possible workarounds. The easiest one is being in a big race – I can just follow the sound of other runners as long as there are others who run at my pace. With a big race like Capitol 10K that’s never a problem. But I also love trail runs, and with those I hugely benefit from not running alone. Some of the trails I love also happen partially when it’s already dark. So strong headlamps, and also a hiking pole (which I use when I don’t see the ground), and a running buddy make it so much better. I’m not a fast runner, and trails are definitely much slower when you need to figure your path and not fall, but it’s fun and worth it. When I run with someone, I follow them close behind, and will either follow their feet paths or sometimes just the head, and will remind them to tell me of any obstacles I might miss. So music stays on very low volume on the difficult terrains, if on, so I can hear what’s happening around.
One lovely observation from the trails is that telling people that you’re about to pass them seems part of trail etiquette. “On your right!” is simple and effective. This would be lovely even on regular running paths and roads.
A running buddy, headlamps, hiking sticks, dark or colored or appropriate eyewear and reflective clothing can work a long way. Then we have different kinds of guide running techniques. After getting started, all you need is to find a guide or a running buddy. I just searched for my zip code and found 11 sighted guides. Yay. 🙂
And if you have no safe running routes or no guides or it’s rainy, there’s always the option to run on a running mill home or at a gym.