Walsh running off to London
The first time Dylan Williamson watched New Westminster resident Dustin Walsh and his guide runner in action, he was amazed at the synchronicity between the two men.
Guide runners are used for visually impaired or blind athletes, with the two either running in unison by holding either end of a short tether, or with the guide runner running behind the athlete, giving verbal instructions as they make their way around the track.
The athletes must be within 50 cm of one another and the guide runner cannot pull their runner or cross the finish line first.
Williamson, a 22-year-old from Langley, was being brought in as a potential replacement for Steve Walters, Walsh’s guide runner of the past seven years.
The 29-year-old Walsh was left blind at birth by glaucoma.
“You obviously need a good physical match so you can run in stride,” explained Walsh, following a brief break in a recent workout.
“Every step we take is a mirror image so when my left leg is coming through, his right leg is, and vice versa, so we are covering the same amount of ground with each stride.”
Personality is also important.
“It really is like a marriage,” laughed Walsh. “You spend so much time together, training, at meets, hotels, etc. You have to be able to put up with each other and know each other’s personalities on and off the track.”
“It was amazing to me how quickly I meshed with him,” added Williamson.
“We can both laugh quite easily, whether at ourselves or at a joke.”
After about four or five practices, it became obvious that this partnership would work.
“We are a team, that is the most awesome thing,” Williamson described. “We are competing as one athlete.
“I think it is really a unique experience that not a lot of athletes would really get.”
For Walsh, who grew up in Coquitlam and now lives in New Westminster, this is his third Paralympic Games.
He competed in Athens in 2004, placing fifth in the T11 400m race and was 11th in Beijing four years later. Walsh was 11th in the 400m race after suffering through a hip flexor and quad injury.
Walsh is running two events in London: the 4x100 relay—alongside Braedon Dolfo—and the 400m, and he feels good about his chances.
“I have been to two medal ceremonies and had to watch, which is a very frustrating thing,” he said.