My experience as an achilles guide
Last year we were excited to announce our new partnership with Achilles New Zealand. Achilles provides New Zealanders with disabilities the opportunity to participate alongside able-bodied athletes in local mainstream events like Cigna Round the Bays, as well as at high-profile international events like the New York Marathon. Several of our enthusiastic employees have volunteered their time and have become guides for Achilles athletes.
Naomie Lye, Cigna's Business Development Specialist, shares her own experience as an Achilles guide.
As a guide you’re there to support the person you are running with, not to do the run for them but more to provide anything they need to get from start to finish! So you do need a reasonable level of fitness and definitely need to understand the person you’re supporting – their fitness level and goals for the event you’re running with them. It wouldn’t work to have an athlete who wants to run a Half Marathon in two hours paired with a Guide that has only prepared for a 10km run. Achilles take special care in ensuring the teams will work for both the athlete and the guide.
Achilles athletes vary in their disabilities – blind athletes may require a more “hands on” guide by way of hold on to a rope so the guide can direct. It can also be helpful to explain the environment around, especially for an route that is unfamiliar to the Achilles athlete. Sighted athletes would look to a guide to provide them the emotional support and encouragement to take on the distance they have signed up for. I even remember one guide carrying a spare limb at Cigna Round the Bays!
Guides also act as a sort of “body guard” to ensure the general public, also participating in the event, provide the necessary room for the athlete to run. As you can imagine it can get a bit tricky around corners and busy parts of a run, and then you also have to let runners with headphones in know you’re coming through!
A little about my Achilles athlete
I met Vinnie Klein at Round the Bays in February, she’s a blind athlete from Taupo. She was born with a degenerative eye condition which means she can see little more than blurry shapes. Her blindness requires her to have someone running with her at all times. Vinnie is an experienced runner and has completed various events such as the 2013 New York Marathon and most recently Cigna Round the Bays Half Marathon in Wellington.
Vinnie and I decided to team up when she was looking for a guide to do the Rotorua Half Marathon. We agreed that if I did this with her, she’d run the Taupo Half Marathon with me in August.
Our training schedule
With Vinnie being in Taupo and me in Wellington it’s not possible for us to train together. I know the pace she’s looking to run the Half Marathon in, which is in line with the pace I run at so we’re comfortable we’ll be fine as running partners. We’re in regular contact on how our training is going and sharing our nerves and excitement along the way.
My weekly running scheduled consists of a couple of 5-10km runs a week, some sprint type training that I incorporate with my strength training, and I try and do one long run on the weekends. It’s tricky to fit this in with my life, working full time and being a mum, but keeping fit has always been very important to me so I try the best I can to make it work. My daughter is more than happy to ride her bike and race me along the Hutt River Trail or Oriental Parade, as long as it’s not raining!