Torie Tennant is visually impaired. Her preconception that parkrun wasn’t for ‘people like her’, and that it was only for ‘runners’, was quickly put aside as soon as she contacted Ecos parkrun.
In 2014, I wanted to do something for charity and saw that there was an eight mile walk option as part of the Belfast marathon.
Even though I walked everywhere, as we have never had a car, I wanted to make sure I would be able to comfortably complete the eight miles as I had not walked as far as this before.
I had heard about parkrun and thought it sounded like something that would help with my fitness and preparation for the eight mile walk.
When I emailed the Ecos parkrun team to ask if they would let me attend, I thought the answer would be ‘no’. My preconception was that parkrun was for runners and not walkers like me and particularly not someone with a visual impairment.
I was delighted to hear back from the Ecos team, inviting me to attend the very next Saturday and that there would be someone available to walk with me and my guide dog Ushi.
I haven’t stopped parkrunning since. I have 218 parkruns to my name and counting, keenly heading towards my 250 milestone.
I have completed the eight mile walk within the Belfast Marathon three times. My guide dog Ushi walked with me for two of these walks, along with a guide, but the third walk was just me and my guide as my current dog Vivvy wouldn’t have liked the crowds.
Ecos has always been my home parkrun but I have attended some others and have always received the same welcome and sense of community that I experienced at that first parkrun.
There is a great sense of belonging and community at parkrun. Nobody cares what time you do and it is great to not have your disability be the main focus of the event. parkrun really is for anyone who wants to do it and I would encourage anyone to give it a go. Don’t be put off by the word ‘run’ as it doesn’t matter how you get around the course. There are walkers, joggers, runners and volunteers all enjoying the event together.
If you are visually impaired, come along and see how much you enjoy your first parkrun. It is a great way to get fit and meet new people. I would just say, if you can, contact your local parkrun so they can have someone available to guide you or find a way to best suit your needs.
I can guarantee you won’t regret it.
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