Retina UK welcomes London Marathon’s guide runner policy U-turn

Posted on: Tuesday 5 February 2019

Retina UK has welcomed the news that guide runners will be fully recognised for their achievements at this year’s London Marathon after a change of heart by the event’s organisers.

We, and other charities, had expressed our concern and disappointment at the news that guide runners would not receive medals or finisher T-shirts when they cross the finish line at April’s iconic event.

But Hugh Brasher, Event Director, London Marathon Events Ltd has today revealed a change in policy that will also see guide runners receive a timing chip for the first time.

He explained: “Over the past months, we have been reviewing our policy for guide and support runners in the London Marathon. Guide and support runners do an incredible job to help others complete the 26.2 miles, both in training and on Race Day, and we want to celebrate their achievements.

“We passionately believe in sport for all and we work very hard to support people with a huge range of disabilities, including the visually impaired, to complete the London Marathon. As has been the case for many years, any runner who requires a guide or support runner can apply for a free of charge place for their guide or support runner in the 2019 London Marathon.

“At this year’s event, we will be allocating a timing chip to guide and support runners. We are currently working with our timing and results providers to create a new system where the guide or support runner will be given a time in the official results which will be linked in the results system to the time of the runner they are supporting. The official results will make it clear where a finisher has been running as a guide or support runner.

“Guide and support runners will also receive a finisher medal, the finisher t-shirt and recovery bag when they cross the line with their runner in The Mall.

“We know the huge physical and mental benefits running can bring to people’s lives and we are determined to inspire runners of all abilities, disabilities, ages, faiths and demographics. We want to do all that we practically can to support everyone who get a coveted place in the London Marathon.

“Since guide and support runners are there to help their runner and are allocated a place in the race on that basis, the support place would be withdrawn if their runner has to pull out before the start of the race.”

Deborah Laing, Senior Fundraising Manager, welcomed the news.

She said: “Guide runners undertake a great challenge and responsibility when running with a visually impaired partner and negotiate the route for two people, not just themselves.

“We are delighted that our voice has been heard and that London Marathon Events Ltd has changed its policy to ensure that guide runners get the recognition they deserve at this year’s London Marathon.”

This year we have a 27 strong team, four of whom are guide runners. Between them they aim to raise over £50,000 to support Retina UK’s vital work.

Amber Harrison, who guided Retina UK runner Will Harrison in 2016 said the London Marathon had finally made the right decision.

She said: “It wasn’t easy for me to run and required lots of training and determination on both our parts, to not get a medal at the end was pretty mean and didn’t appreciate the efforts of the guide runner at all.”

Will added: “Guide runners should technically get two medals! One for running the marathon, the second for helping the disabled achieve their goal. The water stations became a death trap with all the half full discarded bottles all over road. I could not have got round without Amber.”