Ottawa runner, guide hope for Paralympic gold

A local blind runner and his guide are heading to London today for the Paralympic Games and both men will be running for a chance at a medal.
Brandon King and guide runner Andrew Heffernan have formed a unique bond as they train for the Paralympics. 1:59

A local blind runner and his guide are off to London for the Paralympic Games as the men will be running together for a chance at a medal.

Brandon King will race in the men's four-by-100-metre relay race for the visually impaired alongside his guide runner and University of Ottawa student Andrew Heffernan.

King, 21, has been running since he was 13 years old, but these are his first Paralympics.

"It can't really be explained in words. It's just awesome ... a crazy experience, you know? The best of the best are there and it's going to be great," he said.

1st-year guides eligible for medals

These Games marks the first time medals will be handed out to guides, in addition to the runners.

It is a recognition of the unique relationships often seen at the Games where athletes and guides train side-by-side.

King said the two runners have established chemistry, which has been crucial.

Andrew Heffernan, left, trains with Paralympic runner Brandon King. The two run their first race at the Games on Sept. 5. (CBC)

"Chemistry. It's got to be there, on and off the track, for this to really work," he said.

King first paired with Heffernan last summer and the two have become fast friends over the past year.

Heffernan, originally a long-distance runner, said he had a rough transition early as he adjusted his style to match the sprinter's pace.

Guides run alongside during race

"The first couple races I was busting my balls just to go as fast as I could and keep up with him. But now things are a little smoother, so now things are looking pretty good," said Heffernan.

The guides in the relay run side-by-side with the runners, giving left and right cues and keeping the runners in the lane.

"If he starts moving too much outside, he'll feel me, obviously. If he moves too much inside, I'll bring him out. And then as we're going into the zone, I'm giving him cues," said Heffernan.

Both men are confident they can help Canada win a medal in the event.