I stopped being active in my mid-20s as my vision loss began to increase. At age 31, weighing over 250 pounds and on the path to diabetes and high-cholesterol, I began to run two days per week. Eventually, that became three days a week.
I started with ‘only’ ten minutes, then it became 20 minutes. Before I knew it the run was lasting 45 minutes. I signed up for my first half marathon in 2011 because I had run for two-hours and thought I would never be able to do that. Today, I have four 100-mile race finishes and numerous other ultras and marathons including Boston for the past seven years. I’ve lost over 60 pounds, no longer get tired playing with my daughter, and I love being outside.
What challenges do you face as a visually impaired athlete and how do you overcome them? How does a person find a guide?
Finding a guide is the biggest challenge to running outside. Also, running on technical trails has proven to be a challenge that makes trail running so much fun, United in Stride is a great resource to recruit sighted guides. Networking with local running clubs/groups is also an effective way to recruit and cultivate guides.
Why did you pick running to overcome weight gain and lower your chances for diabetes and for high-cholesterol?
I love running because it is so approachable and simple. You put on a pair of shoes and head out the door. Living in a city like Boston provides so many wonderful parks and paths to run on, as well.
Who, if anybody, inspired you to start running?
My daughter was my motivation to first begin running. I wanted to be healthy (my Dad had diabetes so it’s in my family) and to be able to keep up with her as a two-year old was important. My peers in the running community and selflessness of my crew of sighted guides continue to inspire and push me.
That first year of running was amazing. Each time I ran it lasted a few minutes longer than the previous run. I learned that running helped my mental health as much as my physical health and I craved the ability to run and let my mind wander. As someone who is visually impaired, I share most of my runs now with sighted guides which has connected me to this amazing running community. I’ve learned how to be patient, how to set goals, and embrace the lows and highs;, all of which are incredibly important in all aspects of life.