We agreed that I will be her eyes. An interview with a running coach for the blind.

In the picture Yousef is running outside on a paved road with skyscrapers in the background . He is wearing running shoes, shorts and a t-shirt with a backpack filled with water on his back that he is drinking through a straw. He is wearing big reflective sunglasses.

Recently I interviewed Yousef who became a running coach for the blind by fate. Yousef earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and has been coaching cycling and running in Saudi Arabia for 2 years.

His first blind trainee, Reem, is a 25-year-old woman, and is soon to be a lawyer. Reem is legally blind (has limited vision). She has never tried running outdoors before but she has experience running on a treadmill. Reem’s older sister is a runner and she encouraged Reem to try it for herself. Coach Yousef non-hesitantly welcomed the opportunity to train Reem when her older sister asked him.

In this post, I am sharing Yousef’s perspective on training a blind person.

 When Yousef met Reem for their first coaching session, he described himself as being “nervous and excited at the same time.”  “We agreed that I will be her eyes”, Yousef told me. The challenge was for Reem not to trust her own eyes when she saw something that could be an obstacle or heard a distractive noise, like a car or bicycle passing nearby. Her focus had to be on Yousef’s words.

Yousef is determined to find a solution for every challenge he faces. When he needs to demonstrate a specific movement, he brings on Reem’s older sister and his own daughter for support in demonstrating that movement. For example, to demonstrate the correct running posture, he applied the position to his daughter while Reem’s older sister was mimicking his movement on Reem.

Yousef and Reem agreed to collaborate with each other until they found the best way of training that works for both of them. The methods they tried were voice, wrist belt and whistle. They agreed that they would challenge themselves. Yousef always welcomes new suggestions so if you have recommendations, please share below.

“I felt over the moon when Reem finished her first 5K”. Yousef said later that he had no doubt Reem can do it and he wanted to prove it to her. Reem running the 5K is an inspiration for many people and she continues to be one, now as a representative for the first international half-marathon in Saudi Arabia.

Reem is standing outside, wearing a grey head piece and light pink scarf. She is facing the camera.

Yousef also helped two other blind people try running for the first time. One of them, Abdullah shared his experience in his tweet:

Embedded tweet with a link

Abdullah’s tweet translated in English: “Today I discovered that there is a possibility for me to be a runner and there is a future for me in this sport. Can you imagine? I tried running for the first time with confidence and no fear. I liked the experience.”

Another person, Mohammed Saad, tweeted:

Mohammed’s tweet embedded with a link

Mohammed’s tweet in English: “A few days ago I tried running for the first time without the advanced preparation, under the supervision of the creative coach. He said “Focus on you legs and let me be your eyes”. How cool is that?:) I gave him all my trust and I started running without fear. He did not break my trust.

If you trust yourself, as a coach, you can coach people with different abilities. Yousef’s suggestions for coaches who are hesitant to have people with disabilities on their teams are:

  • People run with their legs not eyes
  • Find alternatives 
  • Look for solutions 
  • Earn their trust 
  • Be patient 
  • Put yourself in their shoes at least for once

Stay tuned for an interview with Reem!

One thought on “We agreed that I will be her eyes. An interview with a running coach for the blind.

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