Line for blind runners piloted at Melton Parkrun

Maddi Archer tries out the Running Guide with inventor Mark Beeby by wearing goggles to simulate reduced vision EMN-150826-171010002

Maddi Archer tries out the Running Guide with inventor Mark Beeby by wearing goggles to simulate reduced vision EMN-150826-171010002

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A pioneering invention developed in the county to help partially sighted and blind youngsters to take up running is being piloted in Melton.

Running Line inventor Mark Beeby brought his brainchild to Melton County Park in July to join the weekly Parkrun, and is returning this month for a second time.

The Running Line is a 30-metre line pulled taught between two posts with a sliding directional guide which the runner holds.

A buffer is placed at five metres from the end of the line which warns the runner how far is left.

It is already helping to give blind children the confidence to run unaided which subsequently builds speed and stamina.

Mark added: “Running is something we learn from visual assistance. Youngsters tend to run with their hands in front of their face because they are worried about what’s in front of them.

“My aim is that after three runs I can get them to run with their hands down by their side.

“In the first session they get to walk it to get the trust that there’s nothing between point A and point B.

“Then they go faster and within two or three goes they go quite quickly. It also helps me to look at their running skills.

“The aim is to engage young people in this activity before they lose their interest in sport.”

Mark is hoping to attract more children with sight problems to try out the Running Line when it returns to Melton on Saturday, September 12.

British blind sprinter Selina Litt, from Cosby, came to Melton for the first session to try it for size.

Selina competed at last year’s Commonwealth Games and runs on the track with a guide runner.

Sighted people are also welcome to try the line which has also helped to inspire interest in becoming guides.

Mark said: “We blindfold anyone who is sighted to demonstrate what’s it’s like.

“We have already had enquiries from people wanting to become guide runners so it ticks several boxes.

“We would like to get more blind people running and get them involved in Parkruns.”

Mark works across Leicestershire as an inclusive multi-sport coach and works in Melton one day a week.

The idea came to him during one particular weekend event when necessity became the mother of invention.

“There were two blind girls at an event I was doing and I was asked to include everyone in all of the events,” he said.

“We were doing a relay, but I thought ‘how are we going to include these two girls?’

“So I took a clothes line and got two teachers to pull it really taut and both girls ran up and down the line listening to an audio description.

“I thought, ‘I can adapt this’. It’s not rocket science.”

The idea is simple, but caught the interest of the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust who asked if it could be done over a permanent 100m course.

It also captured the imagination of designers at Loughborough University who are working at taking the Running Line a stage further.

“We are hoping to have it over a 200m or 400m track,” Mark said. “We’ve just got to negotiate the bends and keep it taut.

“It’s fantastic for young children. We get kids who have never run before and totally blind doing reps.

“It’s really exciting and very rewarding.”