“You know, I could do that,” Maggie said, much to my surprise. I’d just described the Wolf Run to her. It’s a ten kilometre mud bath with added climbing frames, cold water swims and wades, log walls and an awesome slide. It’s not just that it’s difficult for anyone: Maggie has been blind from birth.
To be fair to her, I shouldn’t have been surprised. I met her four years ago when she asked to come running at parkrun and I volunteered to help train with her for a couple of weeks. Since then we have run parkrun fifty times, run on and off road races and even done the London Marathon. Maggie has never let anything hold her back. She’s ridden horses, represented the UK at Triathlon and recently, in her sixties, become a runner. We’ve built a team of runners who guide her in training and races and she’s one of the most determined people I’ve ever met.
I tried to let her down gently. I ran my mind over some of the most challenging obstacles and just couldn’t see how we could do it alone. Later I chatted to some friends who were more optimistic than me.
“You could do it with the right team of guides,” one of them said and started a whole new chain of thought. Six months later I had joined Warwickshire Search and Rescue and learnt about our urgent need to keep enough funding coming in and the two needs came together into an obvious answer. As a team we are skilled at travel in rough country and in helping people out of it. Maggie is an excellent fund raiser. Perhaps we could bring the two together?
I suggested it to the team. To say they were enthusiastic is an understatement. Running isn’t everyone’s favourite pastime; running through mud is even less so, but in the blink of an eye we had seven volunteers. Adding them to Maggie and one of my friends we had a huge pack of ten. I was confident that we could get her through anything. I went back to Maggie and told her it was on.
“I didn’t really mean it,” she said. “It sounds terrifying!”
“Oh, you don’t have to go. I’ll tell the team. We haven’t entered yet.” There was a pause.
“Do you really think you could get me round?”
“I’ve thought it through. I’m sure of it. And this is the best team you could possibly have.”
“In that case I’m in. I can really do Wolf Run? I’m afraid of heights.”
“Don’t be daft,” I said, “you can’t see them. Anyway, we won’t tell you. You’ll never know.”
So it was agreed. We were planning a big push on publicity and sponsorship when disaster struck. Maggie and I were training in icy weather. It doesn’t bother her too much; we’ve practiced and running off road minimises the risk of hitting really slippery stuff. Suddenly Maggie tripped over a frozen lump. As she often points out, it wasn’t her first fall and it won’t be her last but an unlucky awkward twist as she went down pulled on the guide strap and dislocated her arm at the shoulder.
Even in the February dark it was easy to diagnose. We rushed to casualty and they popped it back. Sadly, the recovery time and physiotherapy meant that Maggie was out and we had to put the planned publicity on hold.
This sort of thing is a blow to a team like ours. It costs over £4,500 a year just to insure and run the team. That’s without call outs. As volunteers we pay our own costs and expenses but we need fuel for our vehicle and we can expend supplies on call. So we spend a lot of time standing with collection buckets in supermarkets, marshalling events like the Wolf Run and creatively finding ways to keep ourselves afloat. Sponsorship and grants cover major items like kit, but keeping us able to respond any day, any time doesn’t come cheap.
We made the most of our day. We debated blindfolding one of us to run in Maggie’s place but as I was the obvious candidate it didn’t seem safe to do it to our only experienced guide, although one of my ‘friends’ immediately donated money to run in Maggie’s place and watch me suffer. For me the best thing was to be out in the countryside running and bonding with people I usually only see when someone is trouble or we are training for it. That was a big bonus. We could have raised more money, though. Hopefully we’ll be back next year, when Maggie’s shoulder has healed. Watch this space.
We would like to thank the organisers of the Wolf Run for making us welcome, being prepared to let us run round their route with a blind runner and for helping to raise money from marshalling four times every year. We love being part of such a well-run event.
If you would like to make a donation to help keep our team running, please visit our Support Us page.
If you have any ideas to help us raise funds, please get in touch with Nick, our Fundraising Officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org