#DearSolo, I am in need of some advice. I have done a few OCRs this past year, including two Spartans and want to Trifecta next year. I am also deaf on the course – I wear hearing aids but can’t wear them due to water obstacles when racing. I do mean deaf – I cannot hear a thing when racing. Is there any way that deaf or other types of “handicapped” racers identify themselves to race staff, volunteers and other racers? I try to run with a group but this is not always possible. Do you have any suggestions or do you know how other deaf/impaired racers handle this?
Hearing impaired runners may not have too many issues running road races, as there is no water involved (ok, it may rain, but you are definitely not swimming in a lake), and other racers are usually more aware of other runners who do not hear due to the widespread of headphones and running with music. Obstacle races present a unique challenge – large crowds, full submersion in water, and the need to understand instructions from volunteers at various obstacles.
I reached out to my friend, Pam, who is a hearing impaired runner, obstacle racer and a badass chick all around. Pam has completed two Tough Mudders this year as part of Operation Light Within.
Here are some of our suggestions:
1. Try to run with a guide.
Notice this is different from running with a team. The guide is there for you, and only you. Ideally, a guide is someone who ran with you before, however, someone with obstacle racing experience and willingness to help will do just fine! It helps if your guide is somewhat faster than you, in case, there is ever a need to run ahead and scope out the course.
2. Race early.
To avoid the largest crowds and line-ups at obstacles, race early in the day, and late in the weekend. For races with multiple waves, race early in the day. If the race takes place on Saturday and Sunday – Sunday event tends to be more chilled out.
3. Use touch for communication.
As you won’t be wearing your hearing aids during the race, chat with your guide prior, and ask them to use touch to get your attention instead. A gentle tap on the shoulder can act as a signal. Or, your guide can squeeze your hand to let you know to speed up or to slow down. Instruct your guide to look directly at you, when they are talking to you during the race, so you can read their lips.
4. Identify yourself as a hearing impaired runner.
Wearing a racing bib that identifies you as a “hearing impaired runner” is helpful for other racers and volunteers. An awesome bonus is all the support and high fives you will get on the course! You can get “blind runner”, “visually impaired runner”, “hearing impaired runner” and other bibs through Achilles International or a similar organization. Your guide can also identify himself/herself by wearing a bib “guide runner”, informing other racers that they are guiding someone.
YOUR TURN: Do you have a friend or loved one who is hearing impaired? Are they physically active? Any tips or tricks that you would suggest?
Happy obstacle course racing!
******************* #DearSolo is a weekly advice column I launched after becoming of the admins for Chicked Nation, one of the largest online obstacle racing communities with over 15,000 members.
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