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Visually impaired entrants urge organisers to reverse ’embarrassing’ guide runners rule

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Organisers of the London Marathon are facing calls to “bring themselves into the 21st century” and adequately reward guide runners who run alongside visually impaired participants.

Those taking part in the upcoming April event have vented their frustrations as the volunteers, who remain tethered to their runner throughout the 26-mile route, are not given finisher medals like regular entrants.

Lizzie Tovey, 45, from Worcestershire, is visually impaired and is training for the run – her first ever full marathon.

She said it was “unfair” that guide runners at the Virgin Money event did not get a timing chip, a medal, or a goody bag, after “selflessly” giving up their time.

Ms Tovey told Sky News: “I’m really saddened that this is happening – I couldn’t run without a guide runner. This is the first time I have ever come across a policy such as this.

Organisers said they would continue to review policy
Image:
Organisers said they would continue to review their policy

“It’s extremely important that they are recognised in some way. They do exactly the same amount of training, they train alongside us and sacrifice their own marathon times – these are seasoned sports people.

“I have been in training since last year just so I can run this year – it’s a much greater amount of time that they have to give up.”

She said guide runners felt “belittled” and that their role has been “diminished”.

“He’s my eyes during the run,” she added. “I’d happily pay for it myself but they say it’s not an option.”

Guide runners do not get a timing chip or appear in the official results
Image:
Guide runners do not get a timing chip or appear in the official results

Guide runner Simon Elliott, 52, from Northamptonshire, who is helping someone cross the finish line for the third year running, said the London Marathon was sending the wrong message.

“It’s a feeling that they’re just not bothered and it demonstrates a lack of understanding,” he told Sky News. “It’s just a total lack of regard.”

The runner added: “It’s not about getting a medal, it’s about everything that it says about them that’s really appalling.

“In a city that’s trying to portray itself as forward-thinking, it’s lacking behind – it’s quite embarrassing. They need to bring themselves into the 21st century.”

Marathon organisers said they “continually review every aspect of the London Marathon and our policies and procedures” but said the current policy would remain in place.

Event director Hugh Brasher said: “Guide and support runners are given a place free of charge and we also work to facilitate any other support that a runner with a disability might need on the day.

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“Guide and support runners in the mass race are not official participants in the race – they are there to support the runner that has a place – and therefore do not receive a timing chip, do not appear in the official results or receive a finisher medal. This has been the case for many years.”

He added: “Our wonderful team of volunteers hand out finisher medals on race day to the 40,000 plus finishers and therefore the reality is that guide and support runners do get a finisher medal – we do not police this.”

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