Girl on the run: you do what with your guide dog?

If you haven’t signed up to follow BlindBeader’s Life Unscripted blog yet, I highly recommend you do. BlindBeader is a gifted young writer who lives in Edmonton, Alberta, with her husband, 3 cats and guide dog Jenny. My other friends who are blind and run go with a sighted guide, but BlindBeader runs with her guide dog. You can read BlindBeader’s Girl on the Run: you do WHAT with Your Guide Dog? post in its entirety on the Life Unscripted blog to learn more about her decision to take up running as a form of exercise. For now, here’s an excerpt to give you an idea of how she manages to run using her dog as a guide.

by BlindBeader

Blogger BlindBeader and guide dog Jenny waiting for a water taxi during a visit to NYC.

Blogger BlindBeader and guide dog Jenny waiting for a water taxi during a visit to NYC.

It all started a couple years ago after a fundraising run; I had made a great connection with my guide runner, and she and I agreed to go running together. This would involve going home from work, leaving my guide at home, taking my cane, catching the bus, going for a run, catching the bus home… and to me, that was a lot of planning for a quick run, as much as I loved running with my friend. Add to this the fact that I have a guide dog who genuinely likes to go fast (and occasionally we have “arguments” about such things), and I figured I could at least try running with her.

A friend makes sports-style harnesses and I asked her to make one for me. It has a lot of room for the dog to move and acts like a traditional harness in all other ways. The pull in the handle took some getting used to, but once I understood the feeling of the pull in the harness, we were ready to go!

I started small (like, around the block small); if Jenny hated it, I didn’t want to make her run with me. She took to it so quickly that over just a few weeks, then months, we increased our speed, distance and complexity of routes.

Our winter was short, so it didn’t take long for us to really get moving this spring. This past month alone, we have done our longest run ever (more than 7 km), had our fastest ever run longer than 5 km, and did our first ever big group run in support of the Fort mcMurray evacuees. That last wasn’t a flawless experience, but it taught me how to handle it, and gave me hope for other big group running events later on in the spring and summer, and even beyond. My goal is to run an organized 10K by the end of the season; we’re well on our way!

I’ve made some mistakes along the way – misjudging if my guide wanted water (the answer is usually “no”) or underestimating her willingness to go at fast speeds – but when we have this matching jogging-pace speed and are completely in sync, there’s no feeling like it.

Many people ask me if I’ve ever been hurt; the answer is yes, but it’s got nothing to do with Jenny and everything to do with my thinking I know more than she does. If I listen to her quick, decisive, flawless guiding moves, I know I’m in good paws.

More than once I let Jenny set the route (or, at the very least, don’t direct her as much); our neighborhood is a veritable labyrinth of angled sidewalks, roads that intersect and curve around back to each other – a residential runner’s paradise. I can focus on my feet, on my music (90s music is the best to run to!), on the feeling of wind in my face and the smell of pine sap in the air. I don’t have to think too much about where I’m going, what street I’ve crossed, if I’m lost or not, I can just run. I know my guide will run me home when she needs a drink of water.


 

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