Should Guide Runners Receive a Medal Too?

Should Guide Runners Receive a Medal Too?

While I was scrolling through Twitter yesterday afternoon, I stumbled upon a Sky News article which was titled ‘London Marathon: Visually impaired entrants urge organisers to reverse ’embarrassing’ guide runners rule‘ and was naturally intrigued. 

It stated that ‘volunteers, who remain tethered to their runner throughout the 26-mile route, are not given finisher medals like regular entrants’. Read the full article here

This isn’t something that I had ever considered before, had you have asked me whether guide runners received a medal upon finishing the London Marathon, I would have presumed that they would but this is not the case.

Blind charities, such as the RNIB are now putting pressure on the Marathon’s organisers to request that guide runners receive the same recognition as their visually impaired co-runners adding that ‘they need to bring themselves into the 21st century’ in line with other large marathons who do recognise them and that they ‘have a lack of understanding’ for the community.

Guide runners run the same distance, they do the same training they put in the same amount of effort as the visually impaired runner all while sacrificing their own race times. Guide runners are selflessly giving up their own time to help another person achieve their goals.

Blind runners would not be able to participate in the London Marathon without a guide runner and it’s no easy job. Guiding someone across a long distance like a marathon is a tough job, you have another person to be responsible for and ensuring that they cross the finish line safely.

One person on Twitter commented that at the Paralympics, guide athletes will also win a medal alongside their visually impaired co-athlete.

So why is the London Marathon so against the official participation of guide runners?

Organisers argue that guide runners are given a place to run the London Marathon, a much-coveted race which thousands of people are denied access to via the ballot every year, free of charge.

They state that they are not official participants and they are there only to safely guide and support the runner and not run the race itself.

For that reason, they are provided with a race number but they are not issued with a chip timer, receive no official finish time and are not rewarded with a medal or goody bag at the end.

Following the recent backlash, the London Marathon organisers have commented that the current policy will remain in place and guide runners would continue to receive no recognition, despite the recent poll where 95% of respondents voted in favour of guide runners receiving a medal.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you think that guide runners should receive the same recognition as the visually impaired runner? 

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should guide runners receive a medal at the VLM | blind runners
guide runners | London Marathon medals


  1. January 7, 2019 / 6:13 am

    Hi Belle, while I do appreciate the time and effort that goes into training for a marathon and I think guides and visually impaired runners are AMAZING, a guide is by definition a volunteer. They haven’t paid to enter the race but have opted to lend a hand out of the goodness of their heart. And volunteers come in all shapes and sizes, whether they’re distributing bibs, standing on aid stations handing out water and vaseline or placing medals around necks. They are all equally needed to ensure a seamless race experience so why would one receive a medal but not another? Their rewards should be the same – a grateful smile and a kind word of thanks from participants, spectators, race organisers and other volunteers. Volunteer work provides a different type of reward, and it’s not a medal.

    • January 27, 2019 / 1:06 pm

      thank you for your comment, it certainly is an interesting topic of debate from both sides

  2. January 7, 2019 / 5:29 pm

    They definitely deserve a medal! They are still covering the distance, putting in the training, and doing it all for a selfless reason. How many leftover medals do major marathons end up with every year? Would it really set them back much?

    • January 27, 2019 / 1:06 pm

      Yes that’s a great point. How many medals are actually left over from DNS runners, most likely more than enough to hand to the guide runners! Thanks for your comment

  3. February 10, 2019 / 1:43 am

    Volunteers do it because they can, and the reward of volunteering is enough for most, especially when it means someone else has achieved. I do think it’s a bit low of London Marathon not to recognise the contribution of the guide runner. I would be interested to know how many visually impaired runners and their guides there actually are each year? I doubt being able to acknowledge and reward the guides would be much of a financial burden.

    • February 18, 2019 / 8:54 pm

      Yes I agree, I think there’s an element of the satisfaction of being a guide runner and volunteering by nature is without reward in the physical sense. I believe that it’s less than 50 people who run with a guide each year and I’m pretty sure they’d have that amount left over once the race was done due to the DNS and DNF runners. It’s an interesting debate for sure!

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