Jaryd Clifford and Tim Logan: Sharing the road
In April of 2021, vision impaired runner Jaryd Clifford set out to pace a fellow para athlete in a qualifying marathon. Clifford had never run a marathon before, so planned on pacing for the first 20km or so before bowing out. 2 hours, 19 minutes 8 seconds later, Clifford had broken the marathon world record in the T12 class for vision impaired athletes.
Clifford, who’s 22, might have never run a marathon before, but he was already the world record holder in 1500m and elite in the 5000m field, an event that he runs with two guides – coach Philo Saunders kicking things off and training partner Tim Logan running to the finish. Watching Tim and Jaryd hit the finish line in a major race is jaw-dropping. Two athletes in perfect sync, tethered with a 30 centimetre cord with loops at each end. And Tim’s not just a training partner either, he’s Jaryd’s best mate. “He's probably the only runner that's been there the entire way,” says Jaryd. “He's been there longer than my coach has been there. He's always there.”
Now with three events ahead of him, and more and more attention, Jaryd hopes he can change perceptions of para athletes, what can they achieve, even what they can celebrate.
What were people’s attitudes like when your vision started to deteriorate when you were young?
Jaryd: When I was deemed legally blind, a doctor said to me, "Sorry for what has happened," which has an incredibly negative connotation. It's a very fork in the road moment for anyone that faces adversity or anyone that acquires some kind of impairment. You can either choose to buy into that negativity and see your life as negatively changed, or you can just take it on and give it a crack.
“When I’m running on a trail or path, I’m vulnerable. People are scared of vulnerability and if you’re scared of vulnerability, then you’ll never be able to trust.”
— Jaryd Clifford
When did you go all-in on running?
Jaryd: When my vision deteriorated, I did try to play footy and cricket and do all that stuff. But I realised pretty quickly that I'm not going to open the batting if I can't see the ball. That's probably not going to happen.
Mum knew that I was keen on running, so when I was 12, nearly 13, I did a beep test and they were impressed. I think I could have been scouted to cross country skiing, triathlon, or running, and I chose running because there's a local club, Diamond Valley, and the people there are amazing.
What does your community mean to you?
Jaryd: The Diamond Valley community means quite a lot to me. When I think about big races and I envision the people that will be watching, the people at home, even the people I don't know, are the people I envision, because they're the people that have seen me grow up.
It really does feel like I'm running for so many other people and probably other people that I don't even know about. It shows how important sport can actually be.
When did you two start running together?
Jaryd: Tim’s been there from day one. In terms of guiding, it was funny, I never had to ask him. It was just assumed. He'd been guiding me for years on runs before we actually officially started as a guide. I would just sit behind him for the whole session at Diamond Valley. And the track was quite dark sometimes, and following his footsteps was a way for me to feel comfortable. So I would try and place my right foot when his foot would land, and my left.
What does running together with the tether feel like?
Jaryd: When I've got the tether out, even on an easy run, especially with the guys I trust, it's like I almost turn off my vision. I keep my eyes open obviously and I'm still seeing, but I'm letting them go. Having a guide allows me to get into the zone that everyone talks about, into that just where everything is just flow except for his voice. It's like there's nothing else, really.
Tim: It's such a strange thing, because even on easy runs, if we're doing this guiding you just run so much faster. I don't know what it is, it's almost like you're teaming up and it's two energies just making something bigger.
What part does vulnerability play in the way you guys run together?
Jaryd: When I'm running on a trail or path, I’m vulnerable. People are scared of vulnerability and if you're scared of vulnerability, then you'll never be able to trust.
Learning that it's okay to be vulnerable is akin to learning that it's okay to ask for help, because a lot of people think asking for help is a sign of weakness. That's just not true. Asking for help, is a sign of strength, because you're acknowledging that two people together, a collaboration, is better than one.
Tim, how did you build that trust?
Tim: There's a roundabout going out of Eltham on our training track that gets really busy. Jaryd can't see any cars coming, it's pretty loud, so he has to trust me. I guess every time we make it across the road, that trust builds to a point where he backs my decision most of the time.
Tim, what does it mean for your own running career to run with Jaryd?
Tim: People say, "Oh, you must sacrifice so much." I didn't sacrifice anything, I don't reckon. We go about our days, exactly the same as I would normally do as an athlete, but then, I get to win a major championship with my best mate. That’s not a sacrifice, it’s a privilege.
What do you want to change about people’s perceptions of para athletes?
Jaryd: If you show people with disabilities doing sport and talking about their journey and how they just went and did it, other people will have the courage to do that. Accessibility isn’t just about making more things available, it’s being able to see and witness and know their stories. People should be appreciated equally for what they want to achieve.
Come Run With Us
Guided Runs give you a voice inside your head that believes you can do it, then shows you how. Visit the Nike Run Club App to get access to Jaryd’s recommended Member-exclusive Audio Guided Runs.