Could you imagine undertaking parkrun without your vision? Or with no hearing? In a wheelchair?
Someone once said to me, “courage is fear walking.” I don’t think they were referring to attendance at parkrun when they coined the phrase! I do think it is an apt description though, of the achievement of anyone walking into a parkrun for the first time, and it is particularly pertinent to anyone tackling parkrun for the first time with significant disability.
A year ago, an informal group was established in Brisbane, which supported individuals with vision loss to become involved in walking and running through the assistance of sighted guides. The group was based at South Bank parkrun. The group hosted a guiding workshop at the University of Queensland in April 2017, which is where I first encountered the group. A friend took me along for what I believed was a walk because I didn’t exactly know what I had agreed to do. The workshop was a comedy of errors leading to friendship; torrential rain, and a folded-over contact lens rendering me completely blind, resulted in solidifying a firm friendship between myself and my guide, Sylvia. Despite endlessly teasing of my friend for the sodden adventure, I turned up to parkrun the following week. I wouldn’t leave for another 40 parkruns… and counting.
There were challenging moments, I distinctly recall wishing I could sit down in the middle of the course one day, between 2-3km into the course, wishing I could be collected later, with someone fetching me a coffee from the coffee cart we’d passed on the Goodwill Bridge, thank you very much! Thankfully, those moments have passed!
I have also witnessed these types of moments with our athletes who have low vision or are blind, and it has been a joy to witness their pride in overcoming these challenges each week and a testament to the courage of these individuals in overcoming their fears to walk or run at parkrun.
I believe for myself, the reason I keep returning to parkrun is the kindness and generosity shown to me, by my guides, and by the broader parkrun community in celebrating my achievements and supporting my goals. I also believe it’s because of the sense of camaraderie forged within our group, helping me to both squash my anxiety which exists constantly in the background of my daily life and to gain confidence to independently tackle complexities in my environment daily, with my low vision and profound deafness.
Our group has recently reached a major milestone, with our informal group now becoming the new chapter of Achilles in Australia: Achilles Brisbane.
Achilles Brisbane is a non-for-profit group offering assistance to individuals with disabilities to be involved in exercise and recreational activities. In addition to our weekly parkrun events, we will also meet up on Sundays, supported by Brisbane Road Runners and Intraining. We will use membership fees, fundraising, grants and corporate sponsorship to assist our members to enter races and events.
If you would like more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or see our public page on Facebook, Achilles Brisbane. We look forward to welcoming new athletes and guides! Come and do parkrun with a difference!
President, Achilles Brisbane
Lena Charles and Bonnie Smith are Health Promotion Officers (and Best Friends) at the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service (VAHS) in Melbourne. They are passionate and love empowering their Aboriginal community to make healthy lifelong changes. One way they do this is by promoting the benefits of parkrun. They love spending their Saturday mornings at parkrun…
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