By Derek Schlennstedt
This year’s Great Train Race pitted man against machine.
In an incredible show of athleticism, vision-impaired runners from Achilles Melbourne took part in the event for the first time.
Achilles Melbourne is an all-abilities running group, in which volunteers lead visually impaired and disabled joggers around the Tan track in South Yarra every Sunday morning or help them run in marathons.
One of these visually impaired marathon runners is Adam Koops, who participated in the annual Great Train Race this year.
Not only did he beat the second train, he also crossed the finish line in a time of 59.55 seconds.
Mr Koops said that running this race had long been a goal.
“There is such a buzz around the Great Train Race … you can hear Puffing Billy the whole time and it pushes you to push harder,” he said.
“On one of the crossings I did get stopped for the train, but next year I’m definitely going to come back and beat the first train.”
For the past 12 months, with the help of Achilles Melbourne, Adam has run in several marathons and will be running in the Gold Coast Airport Marathon in July and has also just been accepted into the New York Marathon at the end of the year.
Guides help runners through the course and, similar to a rally co-driver, they provide constant feedback, and are tethered together.
“We go along and the guides will give us as much feedback as possible, they’ll talk me through the course, what’s corners, hills and what is underfoot … this is all at speed so it’s quite an undertaking and they do an incredible job,” Mr Koops said.
The volunteer, not-for-profit organisation runs training sessions every Sunday around the Botanic Gardens in Melbourne.
Mr Koops encourages anyone and everyone who loves running to come and joing.
“Anyone interested who loves running can come down to join us – we’re the ones in the yellow shirts,” he said
Volunteers are always welcome.
To find out more information about Achilles, visit www.facebook.com/AchillesMelbourne/.