Sunday, 26 March 2017

Guide Running - Running OFSSA Cross Country at 36 years old

     This is one of the posts that I wrote, then life got busy and I forgot about it.  It was one of my favourite running experiences from last year, so I thought I would post it - a few months late- sorry :)

     One Monday in late October, I received an email from a friend from teacher's college.  She was emailing to ask if I would like to be a guide runner for a visually impaired athlete at this weekend's OFSSA Cross Country Championships at Trinity College in Port Hope.  It didn't take me too long to respond with a huge and enthusiastic YES!!!

     Running OFSSA is a big deal.  I was lucky enough to qualify as an individual and compete at the OFSSA Cross Country championships in my last year of highschool, and here I am, 18 years later, running them again - this time as a guide for the W. Ross Mac Donald XC team.

     The guiding experience was a fun one.  I had the impression that I would be running at a very casual pace.  I was wrong.  I was paired with an athlete who warned me that he runs his first kilometer WAY too fast and sometimes he pukes during his races.  Both of those warnings came true :)

    We blasted out of the start at 3:50/km pace.  We were flying.  I was running slightly ahead of my athlete and describing EVERYTHING to him as we ran.  I described the elevation, the ground surface, the turns, and the athletes that we were approaching or passing.  It was a lot of talking, more than I'm used to.  I was thinking, "Crap, at 3:50k's I'm not sure I can continue to talk through this race".  But my athlete slowed a bit, and settled into a pace that I could talk thought (thankfully for me).

     With just over a kilometer to go, we came to the "big hill" on the course.  I described it to my athlete as we approached. At that point in the race, my athlete was very tired and the thought of a massive climb was very discouraging, so I added some encouragement to my constant talking to try and help him out.  At one point he slowed right down and said, "How much hill is left".  He was in the middle of the climb, so I told him about 100m.  He groaned and stepped to the side and puked.  I don't know if this was insensitive, but after I asked if he was OK (and he said he was), I asked him if he could walk and puke - we could hear the finish line at this point!!  He started to move forward - which greeted with cheers from me, and we crested the top of the hill.  The course opened up, and the finish line was in my sight (I happily described this to my athlete).  He put on his final push to the finish. We crossed the line.  I'm not sure of the specific details, but it looked as though we were the first guided pair to finish.

   After the race, my athlete asked if I would guide him for his track races.  I said yes (although I need to work on my speed and bring my spikes with me for my next race with him).  Guide running was such a rewarding experience.  It was a lot harder than I thought it would be.  Keeping a running commentary for someone who is moving quickly is a challenge, but a challenge that helped an athlete run his fastest cross country race of the season. I'm so proud of him.  I'm looking forward to more guide running fun in the spring as track season approaches.

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