SAYSKY athlete and sales rep Hasebe Takumi from Japan was guiding his blind running partner, Wada, at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, where they took home 1500m (4:05.27) silver and 5000m (15:21.03) bronze medals!
Hasebe Takumi has been involved in guide running for more than two years. He guides blind runners by navigating them through the race, running safely, and giving a concrete numerical figure of the distance to the competitors and the distance to the finish line.
If you’re curious about what it means to be a guide runner and hear Hasebe’s experiences, please read the full interview below.
Could you please explain what it means to be a guide runner?
I believe that a guide runner is a person who is the eyes of the blind runners and athletes, and makes sure that they can run safely. I also think that guide runners are indispensable for them to be able to compete.
How did you get into guide running and for how long have you been guiding?
I was introduced to Mr. Wada, my current running partner, by a runner who used to run with him. He was looking for a faster companion as his previous guide runner was unable to keep up with his ever-growing ability. I have been involved as a guide runner for two and a half years now.
What are the different techniques that you use for guiding?
Guiding is very different from running alone, because the athlete doesn't know what he is doing now, what time he is running and so on. One of the techniques that I actually use in races is to give him a concrete numerical figure of the distance to his competitors and the distance to the finish line.
What does a traditional training session look like and how did you train prior to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games?
Traditionally, I train individually for 1-2 hours after my full time job on weekdays. As a guide runner, I train with Wada for about 2-3 hours on weekends. Before the Paralympics, I trained with him 4-5 times a week for 2-3 hours (mainly speed training). We also had training camps where we could spend more time together to improve our synchronizing rate.
How was your overall experience with the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games?
I think it was a very good experience in my life. I saw many people with different disabilities at the Paralympic Games, and they were all so cheerful and energetic that it gave me a lot of courage. I am sure that my experience at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games will be a good benefit for many things that I will experience in the future.
What are some rewarding aspects of being a guiding runner?
One of the most rewarding things is that the joy and sense of achievement after finishing the race is more than doubled. There is an overwhelming explosion of emotion as two people work together rather than one person running the whole race.
What do blind runners do better than runners with full vision?
Blind runners have a very good memory because they cannot see with their own eyes.
What is an important aspect when establishing a trustful bond with the blind runner?
I think it's compassion. I think it is important to respect the athlete, because the guide runner is only a support and the athlete is the main character.