UK’s First 10K Race for Blind and Partially Sighted Runners returns to Bristol for 2023

AJ Bell Great Bristol Run stages third annual 10k event for people with sight loss

Bristol will continue its pioneering role as the host city for the Visually Impaired (VI) Runners 10k Challenge, which returns for a third year at the AJ Bell Great Bristol Run on 14 May 2023.

Bristol’s Mayor, Marvin Rees, will be joining the race again as a guide runner, this time for Chris Blackabee, who has been totally blind since the age of 12.

The VI Runners 10k Challenge was held for the first time in 2021 and has been the UK’s only dedicated event for blind and partially sighted runners. For the first time in 2023, The AJ Bell Great Manchester Run, which takes place on 21 May, will host a VI Runners Half-Marathon Challenge following the success of the Bristol event.

Normally, visually impaired runners are expected to compete in the same races as sighted runners, but the VI Runners 10k Challenge at the AJ Bell Great Bristol Run is the first of its kind that allows them to compete for their own medals. There are prizes for first, second and third place males and females.

The VI runners taking part will not have their sight disability categorised as they would do if it were a championship race, but they will be required to be tethered to a guide runner. Participants will set off ahead of the mass start for the AJ Bell Great Bristol Run 10k and Half Marathon races.

Local guide runner, Colin Johnson, first came up with the idea for the VI Runners 10k Challenge and is proud to see its continued growth.

“Every year, people from across the country come to Bristol to take part in the VI Runners 10k Challenge at the AJ Bell Great Bristol Run. There’s such a fantastic atmosphere as people enjoy the chance to meet other blind or partially sighted runners and to take part in a mass participation event, often for the first time.

“Now we have the VI Runners Half-Marathon Challenge at the AJ Bell Great Manchester Run too, I’m hopeful that more and more visually impaired people will be inspired to take up running and to experience the many physical and mental health benefits it brings.”

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, added: “I’m proud that Bristol was the first city in the UK to host a dedicated event for blind and partially sighted runners, and was delighted to be Diane’s guide runner two years ago. Helping to boost the inclusivity of sport is so important and I’m really looking forward to running with Chris at this year’s VI Runners 10k Challenge.”

In 2021 Diane Bentham, with the Mayor as her guide runner, won the race.

Also taking part is Teresa Cryer, who was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at the age of 36. Now 52, Teresa is severely sight impaired and is a member of VI Runners Bristol, a group Colin set up in 2017 which allows runners to train as guides to take blind or partially sighted people running.

Teresa has taken part in every VI Runners 10k Challenge at the AJ Bell Great Bristol Run so far, taking third place among the females both times.

She said: “I love the sense of freedom that running gives me and, while my goal in any race is always just to get out there and enjoy it, to win another trophy would be amazing! Since joining VI Runners Bristol, I’ve taken part in all kinds of races, but it’s always extra special to do an event in my home city and the crowds are great here.”

Alaina MacGregor, Chief Executive of British Blind Sport, the national disability sport organisation that represents blind and partially sighted people in sport across the UK, said: “We are delighted that the Bristol VI Runners 10k Challenge is returning for a third year. It is a fantastic event that not only raises awareness of VI running but also changes public perceptions of what people with sight loss can achieve through sport and physical activity.

“We are collaborating with partners to promote inclusive competition through our See Sport Differently project, and we are delighted to see that the race has inspired other events such as the Manchester VI Runners Half Marathon Challenge.”

For more information on VI Runners Bristol, visit here.

If you, or someone you know, wants to take part in the VI Runners 10k Challenge at the Great Bristol Run, visit here.