Recently, I watched a video about visually impaired skier Millie Knight and the relationship she has with her coach/guide Euan Bennet. The video was produced by The Bank of Ireland UK and is part of their Inspiring Partnerships campaign. Alongside the clip The Bank of Ireland UK suggests that there are six key ingredients needed for partnerships to flourish. These are: trust, communication, solving problems, mutual respect, common purpose and complementary skills. On Sunday 10 April I will begin my fifth outdoor season with my current Guide Runner Ryan Asquith. Motivated by The Bank of Ireland UK campaign, I thought it would be a good opportunity to analyse my partnership with Ryan based on the essential criteria above. Fingers crossed that it will reveal that we have a thriving partnership, which in turn will lead to some promising performances in this Paralympic year.
For some unknown reason I have no reservations when it comes to putting my trust in man or dog. Despite only having light perception in my left eye, I find running with a guide at full speed down the track one of the most exhilarating experiences. This is probably why I choose to compete over 100m rather than plodding along in a marathon. I have every faith in Ryan that he will push me to my limit, not cross the line before me (which would result in disqualification in a race) and alert me when to stop in good time. In training, I find it even more thrilling when I am able to run freely at speed, although the risk is higher as I am not always able to keep in a straight line and the track is littered with dangers, such as hurdles and cones. Nevertheless, whilst Ryan may not be attached to me and able to pull me out of harm’s way, I trust that he has a firm eye on me at all times and will instruct me where necessary. Naturally, we have had a couple of incidents, but there is never time to dwell or doubt. Accidents happen, you move on. If I don’t put my trust in Ryan then he is unable to help me reach and surpass my goals.
Both on and off the track, communication is vital for our partnership to succeed. From planning training sessions to race day. Prior to a race it is critical that both Ryan and I are honest about how we are feeling. If either of us have any misgivings that we don’t share then it is likely that we will fail before we have started. However, Ryan usually tells me afterwards if he was nervous before a competition in order to avoid increasing my own butterflies. During a race the communication is completely one sided. I say absolutely nothing, yet expect Ryan to speak to me all of the way down the track. He will provide me with important cues, such as when to change phases, distance run and body positioning as well as generally shout at me... with encouragement of course.
All athletes encounter problems that require solving and in a way I am lucky to always have at least one extra person to help me resolve them. Although, sometimes the problem could be the person who is meant to help you. I would say Ryan and I both have fairly fiery personalities hence when issues arise we will discuss them in a pretty blunt manner. The advantage of this is that neither of us beat around the bush meaning we can get to the bottom of a dilemma more quickly without either of us being offended by the other’s lack of tact. I’m sure on-lookers are mortified by our exchanges, but it works for us and that is all that matters.
Often in society you hear of people with a disability being treated less equally to their non-disabled counter parts. Similarly, I have observed disabled people treating non-disabled people like slaves constantly demanding rather than kindly requesting assistance. Admittedly, it is difficult to find a balance when you do need a lot of help. Ryan and I train together four times per week for up to three hours at a time. There is no way that our relationship would work if either of us were disrespectful to the other considering the amount of hours we have to spend in each other’s company. Thankfully, Ryan is never patronising towards me and I hope that I’m not too needy. Ryan is not just my Guide Runner, he has become a friend. He even says himself that we are like family.
Selfishly, I do athletics because I want to be the best I can. I do it for me, myself and I. Luckily for me, Ryan does athletics because he wants me to be the best I can. We both strive to represent our country. After competing at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games we both agreed that we are keen to attend another major championships. The experience was phenomenal. Therefore, every training session we do is to achieve that ambition.
Ryan has the knowledge and the working eyes. I have the potential and determination. Together we have the ability to be successful.
To watch Millie’s video just click here. For more inspiring partnerships, follow @Bankofirelanduk and #InspiringPartnerships on Twitter.