Volunteers are an integral part of the Achilles community and take on numerous roles.
Many of our volunteers are experienced runners or triathletes who function as guides for a disabled athlete during training workouts and/or races. Others may choose not to run with an athlete but help with chapter organization, fundraising, race-day logistics, and help represent Achilles at race expos and health fairs.
While the general role is to accompany disabled athletes during a workout or race so the athlete can successfully and safely participate, ask any Achilles volunteer why they do it, and you’ll hear the same answer, over and over: they get back as much as they give, and more.
Achilles guides come in all shapes, sizes, and speeds. From walkers to those who are closer to the front of the pack, there is a place for you as an Achilles guide.As an Achilles guide, you may do any of the following:
The role of the guide is varied and most guides get more from the experience than they give!
Not a runner but still want to make a difference? There are a variety of ways to volunteer with Achilles off-road as well!
Some of the roles of an Achilles volunteer are:
– Help organize training workouts in your area with local Achilles athletes and guides.
Tips for Achilles Guides
Achilles guides function as an athlete’s eyes, ears, guide, and/or motivator. Our goals are to welcome Achilles athletes to the wonderful world of running, promote camaraderie, encourage and build self-confidence, & HAVE FUN!
What to ask
Achilles athletes have a wide range of disabilities. It is critical that guides and athletes have good, open communication. When you are assigned to an Achilles athlete, don’t be afraid to ask the following:
– Do you have any specific challenge?
– Have you been exercising/walking/running? What is your exercise experience?
– Do you use any special equipment? If yes, what do you use? (ex. tethers, cane, braces, crutches, prostheses, wheelchairs)
– What are your goals? How can we best help you meet those goals?
What you will do
As an Achilles guide, you may do any of the following:
– Help disabled athletes become familiar and proficient with special equipment if needed.
– Participate in training workouts with the athlete, providing companionship and positive feedback.
– Provide guidance and running advice during workouts and/or races.
– Help with race-day logistics (e.g. packet pick-up).
– Participate in the race alongside the athlete with whom you’ve been training.
Tips when guiding an athlete
– Provide encouragement and positive feedback. Your job is not to help the Achilles athlete increase endurance or speed; it is to ensure that he/she has a positive experience.
– If your athlete becomes tired, encourage him/her to walk or take a short break.
– As a guide, you’re not expected to provide anything except running companionship and course navigation. If anything else is requested, bring it to the attention of your chapter leaders.
Running with a visually impaired athlete
– Run beside your athlete. If you are in front, even slightly, the athlete can trip on your feet.
– We will give you a tether, which is simply a shoestring with a loop on either end. Hold onto the loop with your hand. Do not tie it around your, or your athlete’s, wrist, which could be dangerous if either of you fell.
– In the beginning, have your athlete hold your elbow, or hold the tether closely to your athlete’s hand.
– As you get more comfortable with your athlete, you may loosen up, allowing more distance between you.
– Key phrases/thoughts:
– “GENTLE RIGHT/LEFT” to inndicate a gentle curve in the path
– “90 DEGREES” or “SHARP LEFT/RIGHT”
– “TIGHTEN UP” tells the athlete to get close, and hold your elbow as you navigate a narrow or congested passage (bridges, biker coming, etc.)
– “STOP” when both guide and athlete need to stop quickly (dog/car/obstacle darts in front of path)
– Give an estimated distance to the top or bottom of a hill, bridge, curb, etc.
– Otherwise, just look at the landscape, and tell your athlete what you see! Bridges, trees, golfers, other runners, bikers, creek, sunset, etc.
Running with a wheelchair or hand cycle athlete
– A flag at standing eye level height is required.
– Safety helmets must be worn by Achilles athletes on wheels.
– Many pushrim wheelchair and handcycle athletes are fast. Don’t be surprised when you can’t keep up downhill. You will usually catch up on the inclines.
– Some races do allow guides on bicycles on the course. Contact the race director at least 6 weeks prior to the event to enquire…never assume!
Thank you so much for your time and energy. We are extremely excited to have you as part of our Achilles CT team!