On Sunday December 4, 2011 I raced my first marathon at the California nternational Marathon (CIM) in Sacramento, CA. Never did I think that this experience would be more than getting a PR for myself at the marathon distance. I chose the CIM because it was the Marathon National Championships for Blind/Visually Impaired Individuals and I wanted to see how I stacked up against others in my class at one discipline. Also, I had been invited by Richard Hunter who was gathering a big group through the United States Association for Blind Athletes (USABA) to also take part. It wasn’t until I arrived at Richard’s house that realized the impact that this weekend could have on a large group of people.
The impact went beyond the athletes (blind participants), beyond the guides and beyond the spectators. The impact could be seen in the children of the guides and spectators. These are the future leaders of tomorrow and it was very evident that these children were educated and molded by the experience. These children learned that there are people in the world that cannot see but can function at a high level. The children of the guides saw that their mommy/daddy valued helping others more than themselves. Even more powerful, these children wanted to begin getting involved themselves.
I think the best way to sum up the weekend is through some of the self reflection by those that were involved. I hope these messages have an impact on you as you read and motivate you to get involved in some way shape or form with organizations like USABA and the C Different Foundation.
Rich Viola (Guide)
“I initially contacted c different because I felt that I might be able to help out others – but what really ends up happening is that we, the guides, are the ones that are thankful. So thankful to have been given the opportunity to compete as a team with an USABA athlete. The entire experience is incredibly inspiring and a team effort like nothing we have ever experienced."
“My kids were so inspired by all the USABA athletes; they took turns guiding each other in a pretend running race when we got home yesterday. Aaron’s picture is now taped to the front of their bedrooms doors – they were so excited to meet him. “
Chris Morrison (Guide)
“May I say from the first moment we began gathering on Saturday morning it was obvious all VI athletes and guides shared a common bond, one which I feel is a 'marriage' of 2 people based on complete trust.
The young of SAC Track & Field were most impressive I hope they continue to hone their obvious talents and to see them again in future events.”
Amy McDonaugh (Blind/VI Runner)
“I really have no words to fully express my heartfelt thanks to Kyle, Benny, and Chris. I have never received such a selfless act of service before. Because of them I was able to run with more confidence, keeping relaxed, without any fear. I started with Kyle who ended up running 2 extra miles with me, when he left it almost felt like a relationship was being severed. Then Benny ran the next 8 miles with me and I felt the same way when it was time for him to go because they really were doing a fantastic job of guiding me. Chris was there for me on every one of those most painful steps of a marathon and he was there with me at the most joyous part. Kyle, Benny and Chris were all at the finish and never left my side till they took full care of getting my bag, food and sharing in my joy. I owe my performance to them. I wish them all the best in their running and schooling, and I would be overjoyed if my children turned out like them.”
Stephanie Anne Timmer (Blinded Veteran)
“This was the first year I ran with a guide, and I will never run without one again. Justin was awesome, I was part of a relay team and we found ourselves passing many runners. I would have gotten hurt or even worse hurt someone else had it not been for Justin – thanks for making the race one of the best I have run.”
Erich Manser (Blind/VI Runner)
“What a blast and truly fulfilling experience forging such bonds! It's really like fast-forwarding the process of friendship, isn’t it? The Guide/VI Athlete relationship really seems to fast-track a sense of lifelong friendship!”
In closing I want to thank some people that were instrumental to the amazing CIM experience. Special thanks to Rich Cardillo of USABA and Richard Hunter for the planning and organization. Thank you to the track/cross country team from Sacramento State (CSUS) for getting involved in the community and serving as guides to many of the athletes. Finally, THANK YOU to all the guides for being our eyes and leading us to victory. We are ever so grateful for your generosity and time.