Recruiting Runners Near You

We continue to make every effort to recruit sighted guides and runners who are blind/visually impaired all throughout North America and encourage them to create United in Stride (UIS) profiles. With that said, we understand that there are cities and towns that do not have any sighted guides or pockets of guides and no runners who are B/VI in UIS.

Here are some tips and strategies on recruitment and how to engage guides. We will consider this a live document so please let us know if there are additional recruitment methods that you have used, and we will add them here. Also, feel free to reach out to Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (MABVI) staff who work on UIS and they can provide some support.

Recruiting Sighted Guides

Where do runners hang out? On the track, at local races, in running groups, and in running stores. Think about where in your city/town runners are and head there.

  • Many running stores either have formal running clubs and/or host group runs. Call your local store, let them know that you are looking for sighted guides, and ask how they can help. If needed, give them a few suggestions on ways they can help. They can post a short blurb on their social media channels (see sample blurb below) or invite you to speak to their members before a group run. This can be very short—five minutes about yourself, why you love running, your running goals, and that you need sighted guide to make this all happen. If you are comfortable with it, invite members to try out guiding during the run. Or, have one of your existing guides attend the run with you and those who are interested can shadow and see how it all works. You will be surprised how many folks want to volunteer but think it is too difficult to guide. Be prepared after the run to do some networking and try to collect contact info for runners who are interested. If resources allow, United in Stride can send you a t-shirt and branded tether to give out.
  • If being more public is not your thing, try to attend some local running groups with a guide. Use the runs to chat with other runners. Be patient and wait to see who expresses an interest in guiding then mention that you are looking for more guides. If you are lucky, they will sometimes offer on their own!
  • Use social media to your advantage. Research the social media handles for local running groups, stores, and race organizers. Tweet or post on their channels asking for help recruiting guides. This is a cost free and easy way to engage some local support.
  • Asset map your local community to see what other types of businesses runners interact with. This may seem weird, but a lot of runners follow local breweries. Some breweries even have regular run groups. So, include some of these local businesses in your outreach—either call or include them in your social media efforts.
  • Reach out to local high schools and colleges to see if any students can volunteer as guides. Connect with the cross country and track teams as well as other teams (i.e. soccer players are in great shape and often open to guiding during their off-season). Try contacting the Athletics Department or an office related to community engagement and service.
  • If you are not already connected to a local group that supports runners with disabilities, check them out. There are numerous Achilles International and Team Red, White & Blue chapters throughout the U.S. and Canada. They do great work recruiting guides for runners especially during their regularly scheduled group run. Also, check in with the chapter coordinator to see if they are comfortable with you asking guides to run with you outside of the group runs. You definitely do not want to poach any guides, but some groups are OK with you engaging guides independently.

Making the Ask

  • Ask the potential guide if they would be willing to run with you once or twice a month. Let them know this is a great opportunity to combine their love of running with volunteering.
  • Let them know that you have (or are working on recruiting) additional guides to help meet your goals.
  • Be specific with them. Make sure they understand that you are not asking them to be your primary guide and can be overwhelming and would necessitate a guide sidetracking their own goals. Asking someone to run with us once or twice a month seems much more doable- some will guide once a month or even less, but some will want to run once a week.  Also, when doing this, even fast runners are willing to guide a much slower runner if it is just once in a while.

Connecting with Runners who are Blind/Visually Impaired

Here are some tips on how to reach out to individuals who are blind/visually to see if they are interested in running/walking. For first time guides, check out the sighted guide training video on the UIS homepage.

  • Check your local area to see if there is an Achilles International or Team Red, White & Blue in your area. Or perhaps a Paralympic Sports Club that has a running component. Try to join one of their group runs as a way to network and learn how to guide.
  • Check out the list on UIS of races that have Visually Impaired divisions. It is likely that the race director of said race can put you in touch with some local runners who are B/VI or the organization that is supporting the runners.
  • See if there is a school or organization serving individuals who are blind in your area and reach out to them to see if any students are interested in walking/running. Some schools or organizations may already have a track team that you can volunteer with. Connecting with the physical education department or recreation program staff are good places to start.

Networking and recruitment take time and require a lot of patience. Not every attempt will yield results but keep after it. The running and outdoor community is a special group of people who are very willing to volunteer and support. Lean on and work your networks and you will be successful.

To help us grow and strengthen United in Stride, please ask any guide that you recruit to create a profile on United in Stride.

And as stated above, feel free to reach out to MABVI/United in Stride staff ([email protected]) for any support.

Happy running and walking!

Sample Social Media Blurb

Runner who is blind in YOUR TOWN looking for sighted guides to train with (you can also insert specific race if needed). Runs 3-5 miles at 9:30 pace. Willing to train so no guiding experience needed. Great opportunity to combine your passion for running with volunteering. DM or message us for more info.