The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa City students training to guide runners who are visually impaired

On Sunday, eight students and Iowa City residents learned how to guide run.
Shaely Odean
Bettina Dolinsek (left) who is visually impaired, is guided by Bianca Banse while running at the Old Capitol Mall in Iowa City on Sunday, April 28, 2024.

The motto “Sharing the joy of adaptive running … one run at a time” is displayed on the website of Team Runfree, a nonprofit organization dedicated to training guides for visually impaired people to run outside and in races.

This motto rang true on Sunday when the organization hosted a session in the Old Capitol Town Center to educate students and other Iowa City residents on how to guide run. About eight people were in attendance.

Those who have a disability, such as cerebral palsy, or in this case, a visual impairment, are referred to as “captains” and the guides are called “navigators.”

Sunday’s event was led by Team Runfree navigator Scott Franklin and consisted of running guided laps around the second floor of the Old Capitol Town Center.

Bettina Dolinsek, a visually impaired runner who works for Team Runfree, said the event was conceptualized from a presentation the nonprofit gave at a UI class some time ago.

“Some of the students put together a program to start guide-running here in Iowa City,” Dolinsek said. “We came back now to help get it kicked off and show how to do the guiding part.”

Dolinsek said the main mechanism between the navigator and captain is a tether, approximately one-and-a-half feet long, that connects the navigator and captain at the forearm.

“It keeps a certain distance in between them and me, so I can feel what they’re doing,” said Dolinsek.

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She said the physical movements, as well as countdowns, are integral in making turns or preparing for shifts in terrain. Dolinsek said she hopes more blind individuals in the area will be enabled by the organization.

“I can run on a treadmill, but there’s something different when you get to actually be with a person or get out there and run,” Dolinsek said.

Two students from the UI Sport and Recreation Management Agency, Brittlyn Taylor and Noah Zukowski, a fourth-year and third-year, respectively, were present. Taylor said Franklin has been the organization’s point of contact for the project.

The nonprofit’s goal this semester was to find the market for accessible running, and today’s event was an opportunity to spread the word and learn about being guides in guide running, Taylor said.

Zukowski said the learning experience and the guide-running concept in general are very educational and collaborative, highlighting how both the captain and the navigator have things to teach one another.

“The blind people are the disabled ones, but they teach us how to guide them, so everybody’s learning something,” Zukowski said.

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About the Contributor
Shaely Odean
Shaely Odean, Photojournalist
Shaely Odean is a transfer student at the University of Iowa, currently in her third year. She is pursuing double majors in Journalism and Strategic Communications, as well as Sustainability Sciences. Shaely works as a photojournalist for The Daily Iowan, and her passion lies in environmental issues. Before joining the University of Iowa, she attended Kirkwood Community College, where she served as the photo editor for the Kirkwood Communique.