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?