Sunday I ran a good 5 kilometres with a new guide runner. I met this guide through the running group Laura introduced me to a week ago. Laura doesn't run on Sundays because they are her recovery day and so this person offered to run with me on the days Laura wasn't available. She, we'll call her Eve, also suggested we go swimming together as she likes to intermix swimming as a cross training technique, which I like to do as well.
I was really impressed by how enthusiastic Eve was and how easily she stepped into a guiding role. She not only guided me on the run, but also through the gym facilities and all of the way back to my flat.
Our run took us over some rougher terrain, up and down hills, along smoothly paved paths and busy city sidewalks; quite a mess for a first time guide, but she did a fantastic job. We chatted most of the run and quickly developed verbal cues for directions and various obstacles. At some of the larger curbs, we just stopped running and walked over them as we were both not confident enough to run them. I think that perhaps once a guide and blind runner are more in sync such ground obstacles are easier to navigate and you are able to keep up your pace, but with us just starting to run together we took the safer route in order to ensure neither of us came out with a twisted ankle.
The only thing that worries me about Eve and I running together is that our stride is very different. I am approximately 5 foot six and even though this isn't particularly tall, I have a longer stride than most people my height. Eve is a few inches shorter than me and her stride is quick and short, which means we don't match very well with regards to stepping in sync. We are missing rhythm.
When Eve first started running, I was completely taken aback. I had forgotten that stride match was a concern. I quickly adapted though and we carried on. I don't think she even noticed. Every once in a while over the course of the run, we would fall out of sync and I would just hold a step or two longer until we were on the same foot and running rhythmically again.
I shortened my stride in order to run with her, but my hamstrings were all sorts of tight later that afternoon and the next day. I've read a lot of articles published on running technique and they suggest long distance runners take smaller steps, landing mid foot rather than on the heel strike, but I think that perhaps Eve may just naturally run with the smaller step.
The other thing that makes it difficult to read her body language is that she kind of hops when she pushes off; kind of like a show horse prancing. It's like she's using the force of her stride to go up rather than forward. A few of my friends described this as a jogger's style of running. I'm definitely not a running expert, but the bopping along seems like an energy waste to me.
Despite her springy step, I think she'd be a great training partner. She's very motivated and wants to improve. She is also in better fitness than I am and that is important for a guide runner/blind runner combination. She's also pleasant to be around, which is another bonus when you're going to be attached to someone for potentially 20 kilometres at a time, but the stride discrepancy is something to take into consideration in the future.
As of right now, if I'm being honest, I'm hard pressed for guides so I will probably stick it out. One of my swimming coaches used to say that if you were going to practice it wrong, then don't practice it at all. I can see where he's coming from, and I definitely agree, but perhaps the shorter stride training will come in handy? Not to mention, if we only run together once a week, I should be okay for now. I'll keep my longer distance runs to be run with Laura because our stride matches much better, therefore, I won't be hobbling the next day from restricted hamstrings.
All in all, it was a very good run, but it gave me a few things to think about: one of them being that just because the willingness to guide is there, that does not mean that you will be compatible, whether it is personality wise or in relation to your stride. I knew all of these things, but I think it was a good reminder.