Not-for-profit organisation parkrun has teamed up with Sport England to launch new project to get more people with visual impairments participating in parkrun.
Sport England plans to invest £142,500 of National Lottery funding in the project, and has already invested a hard commitment of £11,250 into the pilot scheme. Using the funds, parkrun aims to help people with visual impairment start running, walking or volunteering at events, while also encouraging more people to volunteer as visual impairment running guides.
In the second stage of the 18-month project, parkrun aims to invest the further £131,250, offered in principle, to hold taster days, community engagement events and volunteer days across the country, while also supporting a volunteer network of guide runners that can be matched with visual impairment participants. In instances where a visual impairment person does not know the venue or is not confident accessing it, volunteers may provide assistance in getting there.
Based on the success of these activities, parkrun then hopes to roll out a programme to encourage more visually impaired people to start or improve their running or to volunteer.
Around 1.49 million people in England have a visual impairment, however only 9.8% of visually impaired people are active once a week – a figure which Sport England and parkrun are passionate about growing through the project. Talking about the new initiative, Sport England’s Lisa O’Keefe said:
“Sport England is delighted to be working with parkrun on this initiative, designed to make it possible for more visually impaired people to join the growing numbers of people regularly going out for a run.
“So whether you want to volunteer as a guide runner, are visually impaired or know someone that is, we would be really grateful if you could spread the word about parkrun – and come down and have a go.”
For 61 year-old Terry Rodgers, who lost his sight following a head injury and subsequent stroke, parkrun has enabled him to get back into the sport he loves and also to forge new friendships. He said:
“Before my health problems I was a very experienced runner, but had given up on ever being able to run again until I was invited to parkrun by friends to walk around the course. Upon completion, the organisers asked if I would like to come again and asked for volunteers to walk/jog with me.
“I knew that my local parkrun only existed because of volunteers turning up to ensure runners like myself were safe, so volunteered in the hope that I could help others as they helped me.
“I get a real sense of pleasure out of helping those who have helped me. The parkrun community to me is like a family and although not running, I get to meet and talk to many, many other people from all walks of life
For information on how to get involved with parkrun – running or volunteering – visit www.parkrun.org.uk