Spocial Revolution: Visually impaired running – How I ran again after losing my eyesight

How Raghav defeated his visual challenge in running and a few tips for visually impaired running.


How Raghav defeated his visual challenge in running and a few tips for visually impaired running.

By Raghav

In October, 2011, I lost a lot of my eyesight and I took a break from running to rethink and get out of that depression. But I never got back to running as I didn’t have a partner to run safely with, as my blurred eyesight is of no use to practice all alone. A year later, I found myself wondering how life changed so much in one year and how I missed my daily morning runs.

Raghav (right) on the run

How I fought and found a solution 

I then came across an article about a blind person running marathons in Antarctica, and a couple of other articles that inspired me. In one of the articles, I read that another blind person had found a partner through Facebook. After reading that, I started spending a lot of time on social media and being a digital evangelist!

I decided to use the internet to find a partner for me to run again daily morning. I got on to Google and typed “running club in Bangalore”, and the first result that showed up was Runners For Life. I read up on them quickly and got onto their Facebook page. I posted a request, explaining that I was looking for a partner to run with and that he/she must pick up and drop me back home, since they ran at Kanteerva Stadium.

After a couple of weeks, someone named Tanveer responded to my post on the Runner’s For Life Facebook page and tagged Santhosh Padmanabhan. Santhosh got in touch with me from there and we both spoke over phone. I liked Santhosh’s approach and he even said he would be able to arrange for transport, as many runners’ car pool to the venue.

I quickly did a Google search with his name and found that he is the founder of Runner’s High, and that he does some amazing work with non profits, by watching his interview on Chai with Lakshmi.

Running Differently

On my first day of the run, Santhosh and I tried to understand each other. I liked him personally and that is something which was important for me, because without the trust factor and belief in my partner, I cannot run freely and give it my best.

So how do I run? With the help of sound and my blurred vision. I read up online, and a few months back Tim Johnson, the author of Echo Location, contacted me and asked me to give a read of his book. At that time I did not find this book very interesting, but now that I started to run this book is proving priceless because it is helping me to rediscover how to use the power of sound while I run.

Santhosh introduced me to Kanishka, another coach and a running partner since then. He is one of the nicest and best trainers, talking to me, cheering me up and keeping a close watch on my body posture while I run, checking my movement and speed. He keeps me engaged in a conversation and gives me tips, telling me about his earlier marathon runs and gives me constant feedback.

Few quick tips for visually challenged runners

1. Find a partner and spend time with them, because a personal connection is important. See that your partner is a pro runner. In my case that worked out well because I am training for a marathon.

2. I prefer my partner running to the left side of me, so figure which side is comfortable and settle for it. Don’t keep changing.

3. Keep your ears open because you are using sound as a medium to follow your partner, and wandering in thoughts or not concentrating can hurt your speed, time, and might even cause injuries.

4. Sometimes I use the sense of touch while I run – I use my left index finger and just touch the fabric of the coach’s shirt or the skin of my coach’s elbow. This drains a lot of energy, so use it only when necessary.

5. People with low vision can use the colour contrast of the partner’s shirt or shorts. I can see white and black colours if enough light is provided, so I see my partners head for the black hair or his white tee-shirt.

6. First train with one or two partners then slowly try running along with others.

7. You must tell your partner where you feel un/comfortable and must give enough time for them to understand your disability and adapt.

8. Use the sense of smell, because it can definitely tell what kind of path you are going to enter. This technique might take some time to learn, as places where we run differ and factors like trees, dryness, animals, water etc., play an important role when we use the power of smell during a run.

All the above tips are something which I simply follow and they may or may not work for everyone, so the best way is to make your own rules and stick to them. If any one has some tips that I can use, please feel free to share them in comments.

Risks

I asked the same question to myself about the risks involved in running. If you follow all the rules and the advice of your coach, you will not have any injuries and pains, but when you run things might go wrong. I fell down once, but the mathematical probability of having a physical injury during the run is very less. But please be open to that possibility and accept.

Why and what I run for

A lot of people who saw my continuous Facebook updates asked me why I run and what all this effort is for. Simply, I run because I am passionate about running and doing things that are impossible. Running gives me physical activity, which keeps me healthy and doesn’t make me feel bad about not playing any outdoor sport. I enjoy the buddy group breakfasts, conversations, laughter, celebration of birthdays with lots of sweets and cakes. I go and run with Runner’s High because they make my disability disappear.

Also by Raghav: 

You need legs to run, not eyes

This story is a part of the Spocial Revolution series, a collaboration with SportsKeeda featuring stories of sports as an instrument towards social change and voices from the community on sports as a choice in sustainability.

Have a story of how sports changed your life or someone else’s? Write to contribute@thealternative.in 


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