When Bree and I are doing the Parkrun and how Bree tends to go on a whim and change direction and takes me through bushes.
Bree never ceases to amaze me….
One of the things I am most proud of doing is joining Parkrun. Parkrun is an international event held everywhere around the world on a Saturday morning at 8am. So, what happens is there’s a set 5km track which participants either run, jog or walk. It’s an excellent way to mix with different people in the community, whilst getting more active.
I joined parkrun in February 2019 after talking to a mate over dinner who had been a part of it for a few years. I remember saying to him that I would love to do something active but blind people can’t run.
Two days later, he rang me and said he spoke to the local organiser and there was a volunteer who would jog around the track with me. Feeling unsure, I said to my friend that I would give it a go.
What turned out to be an activity to get more active has opened a lot of things for me. I have been able to make new friends, connect with a variety of people in the community and also get fit. Each week, a different person would volunteer to run with me, which was great because it gave me a chance to learn their story.
At the start, I didn’t run with Bree. Guide dogs are trained to guide, however guiding in a running or jogging scenario is outside of their normal skills. After participating in Parkrun for about six months, I began by walking with Bree around the set 5km track. Other participants take their dogs and Bree loves to mingle with them, which can be a problem when I need her to focus. As time went on, she became better at guiding me and I would quicken the pace, to the point where we were running around the track in about half an hour.
On one particular day, she decided to take things on a whole new level. At the Parkrun event I participate in, the track is concreted, with bushes on one side and a big blue lake on the other. It had rained the night before, so the grass and concrete were still wet. When it rains, it’s a little trickier for Bree to guide me because there are many smells.
The first kilometre was fine but then I noticed she was sniffing towards the grass more and more. There was a part in the track where it veered to the right. Bree chose to go left, and naturally I followed. Very quickly, I found myself in the bushes and almost up a tree. I was so grateful she didn’t choose to turn right sharply because we would have ended down an embankment of nearly 50m and into a big blue lake.
So, what did I learn?
It’s hard to say what I learnt. Whenever I run with Bree nowadays, I am very cautious. I challenge anyone to run with a dog blindfolded.