Dawg Tired – Run like the Whippet

20131213_073341-1This is Carla the Whippet at 7.00am after I had returned (yes, got back from) my Friday fartleks.   Running in the park, in the dark at dawn whilst she…kips.  In my bed!  With my missus!

Seems that dogs were a real theme of the run this morning.  Something about a 14st man running up and down a track, panting, really get their blood up.  Various yappy mutts bobbed up to me this morning, chased, or chastened by their owners, flashlights waving in the shadows.  It was like a scene out of Fargo.  Friday Fargo Fartleks.

And all this before our race hound has even lifted her head from the pillow!

There is a great new post on the RLSB website from a mum with VI children.  They’ve been on the tele and everything! With Alan Titchmarsh no less!

And remember that you sponsor me for the London Marathon and the RLSB at my donation page here.

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The Prince of Fartlek

Batman West Ward RunI run like Batman – the 60s one, not Christian Bale.  This morning, under the cover of darkness, I ran in a mode known as fartlek.  Yes, fartlek.  A Swedish word meaning ‘speed play’.

You sprint as fast as you can for as far as you can.  Then, mild nausea and hyperventilation permitting, you jog for a bit. Repeat until cooked.

How to describe it? Your arms and face do funny things.  You kind of flap and gurn whilst thudding along in high-viz clothing and compression socks.   I am not psychologically ready to do this in the clear light of day.  I am not really ready to do it at all.  But, it’s all part of getting desk-bound sugar fiends with all other vices respectably plotted on the life timeline into…shape.

Once you have fartleked five of six times, you give up.  You get that I-want-my-mum feeling.  After a rest, disguised as a stretch, you stumble back home.

BUT

When your body has come to terms with what’s just happened and the endorphins kick in, well…it’s another story.  Christian Bale is within reach.  The saggy tight-ed, biff-pow merchant that was Adam West (who always looked a bit too slack for the job) now feels like he has a shot at the title.

CGI can make it work.

BMI will be your friend.

MFI…made affordable furniture?

And all these things are true in the benign, yet ever so slightly puffed up London Marathon 2014 world that says:  I’ve Just Fartleked!!!!!

 

Future Exchange – Working Towards Work

GetImage.aspxI met a guy on Saturday who had lost his sight completely 6 months ago as a result of a rare genetic condition.  He was sitting next to a chap who was born blind.  He, in turn, sat next to a girl who was blind and also in a wheelchair.  She sat next to a 19 year old girl who had lost most of her sight over a period of years from the age of 13.   What a mix!?

They were all attending a leadership workshop at Future Exchange – the first event of its kind hosted by the RLSB.  I was there to provide a parent’s-eye-view on visual impairment.  I thought I was there for their benefit. Turns out that they gave me a bunch of advice on bringing up a kid?!  They also shared lots of personal experiences about what it’s like growing up with a visual impairment.

On the theme of leadership and the next generation of young visually impaired people, almost all of the sentiment in the workshops was very positive. The the RLSB youth forum reps, Joy and Asher, were very well organised and  their natural and considered delivery put everyone at ease.  They were real pros!  (and I should know – I’ve been in more workshops than Pinocchio).

For me, the really big message from the whole day was the issue of Jobs.   The event was full of bright young people, really keen to get on, passionate about breaking away from the stereotypes that surround them and encouraged by being given a ‘voice’ at the event.

Whilst very positive, by the end of the day you could hear the frustration, both stated and implicit, expressed about their collective situation.  One girl summed it up in a sentence:

“I’m totally normal.  I’m a normal person.  I just can’t see.”

Of course, she’s not normal.  She’s exceptional.  Ironically, she’s exceptional in ways that most employers would love to bottle-up and serve on a daily basis to their workforce.

Maybe I was a bit giddy on the whole thing.  It was a novelty to be surround by such a cool bunch of people.  But, part of me thought that all the answers to the future were right there in the room at the Future Exchange.  Easy!

However, it’s important not to get carried away.  The reality for VI people is that the majority won’t find employment on more than a temporary or volunteer basis today.  Only 38% of blind and visually impaired people of working age in the UK are employed.

It’s interesting then that a lot of the emphasis in the panel Q&A at the end of the event was on starting up businesses and entrepreneurial spirit.  Tim Campbell, a high profile Apprentice winner and dedicated entrepreneur with a third sector passion, gave some great advice for ‘getting at it’ if you want to start up your own business. Ben Quilter, a VI paralympian and Judo gold medalist made a real connection between the challenges of VI and reaching the top of his sport.   The panel served as a vitamin shot for anyone needing that extra shove into action.

I’m sure there were also things to untangle for people in the audience once the buzz had died down – those not motivated to run a business, or compete in a sporting arena, those who just want the ‘normal’ stuff.  Cash.  Independence.  All that.  Great that a charity called Blind in Business was at hand to provide advice on the practical aspects of getting a job.

All in all, the event tabled lots of ideas, concerns and experiences.  With any luck, the manifesto it goes towards creating will pave the way for the exceptional and the exceptionally normal to ‘get on in life’.

The most striking thing for me at the event was the diversity of people in attendance.  Not so much the social diversity (class, ethnicity etc.) but the diversity of conditions that sit under the banner of being VI or Blind.  No two people in the room saw the world in the same way.  Each had a different story.  Combined, they shared an aspiration for the future.

Wow!  That’s just like…everyone else, then?  (-:

Future Exchange – RLSB

GetImage.aspxI am speaking at an event for young people with visual impairments (VIPs, no less) on Saturday 30th November at a great event called Future Exchange.  It has been organised by the RLSB to help young people network and discuss issues around  employment, transport and independence.

My job is to tell a these young VIPs about the our story of being parents of a baby that is visually impaired and how the RLSB has helped.  We, my family, are complete rookies when it comes to understanding VI challenges.  We know the  challenges of coping with a critically ill newborn.  We know the challenges of discovering that she couldn’t see.  We know the challenge of adapting as a family as she figures out what the world looks like to her.  But, we don’t know what it’s like to try and find a job, or even get on a bus, when you have a visual impairment?

Getting Olive on a train as a one year old, is the same as it is for any other family with a one year old. She’s buggy bound!

So, what’s the point of addressing the crowd at Future Exchange?

I think the key thing is about the importance of confidence.  So much of what we experience in life is based on confidence.  A lot of young people suffer from a lack of confidence.  It affects their quality of life and can impede progress towards whatever goal they have; being a lawyer, getting on a bus, getting out of bed!?

The RLSB gives you confidence.  It’s not something it always teaches explicitly, but its woven into everything the charity does.  As a parent, if you lack confidence in how to bring up your child, it affects what you do and how you do it.  We can learn from others and find confidence.  We hang out with other parents going through the same stuff and feel edified.

But, when your needs as a parent become very specific – like bringing up your very own VIP – the networks are harder to find.  The confidence gap can turn into a gorge.

So, for different reasons, the ‘yoof’ at the event on Saturday and my family have found confidence in a network, in peers and in shared experience – all thanks to the RLSB.  Also, these guys should understand that they are a source of confidence and inspiration, not just a group in need of confidence building.  They are running down a two-way street!

I think I’ll tell them something like that…

Remember you can sponsor my Marathon Run for the RLSB here

I am not a Postman

20131127_064132I am not a postman.  I am not a milkman.  But I saw 5.45am this morning like the best of ’em.  Not because of baby feeds, not because of a late night out.  No!  I was strechin, skippin and runnin. It felt grea….well quite cold and a bit lonely really.  The park was still very dark and shadowy figures posing as geese and swans kept me on my toes.

I crept home like a suburban ninja, undetected by my brood of sleeping bunnies.  It was as if it had never happened.  But it did. And I told them when they woke.  Otherwise, what’s the point?

Dadathon…You Decide!

Carb Grazer!
Carb Grazer!

The first post has to be a self-deprecating statement of how this blog is doomed to fail as its author is a busy boy, identified at work as a poor ‘completer finisher’!

And he’s supposed to be running a marathon.  Pah!

Join this motivational poll and have your say…its having a say, that’s yours.

A dad and a marathon