A short while ago, a thread regarding hurdles with using guides from running clubs was started in a private Facebook group I’m part of. While I’ve shared parts of this blog post in that group, I’m expanding on it and making it public.
As athletes with disabilities (AWDs), we depend on others to help us, and to help us compete. Those guides are people that we trust, and who have given up their time to help us train and participate. One thing they should NEVER have to worry about is ‘if something accidental happens, am I going to be on the hook for it?’ That sort of question can only lead to trouble for both you and your guide.
Since I’ve started participating as an AWD, I’ve always looked at things this way – if something accidental happens, I’m going to take care of my own injuries and leave it at that. And I expect the same of the guides that I’m working with if it happens to them. I know that there’s an inherent risk in participating, and I accept those; and I completely trust those who are guiding me.
I know that everyone is at a different place in their lives. But, if you’re going to participate with guides, this is a hurdle that you need to get over first. In my opinion, being out there with a guide is an implicit agreement that you’ll each handle things on your own if something accidental happens. But understanding the over litigious society we live in, this is sometimes easier said than done.
There are several ways to combat this fear from / for all involved:
1) Education – Talking with groups that might be a good source as guides, but who are concerned about the legal angle. Tell them about your experiences, your expectations, and how well things have worked with other guides you’ve worked with. Also be up front with them about your expectations should something accidental happen.
2) Visualization – Invite them to an event that you’re running with another guide. Let them see how that guide to AWD interaction occurs throughout the race. As well as how other participants interact with you. Both sides of that should help them to see how well everything works.
3) Exposure – In addition to #1 and #2, explain to them the positive visibility it’s going to give to them. The guide will most likely be participating in club gear, and they’ll be seen as doing a great thing by helping an AWD participate.
While you won’t be able to change everyone’s mind, there are always ways to work around hurdles. But you need to be responsible as a runner yourself for things to work out well.
Responsibility should be part of your core if you’re out there as an AWD athlete!