How Running Gave Me Vision Even Without Sight
As the oldest of triplets, you could say I’ve been racing my entire life. I didn’t come to find a love of running until my teens, + I didn’t truly compete until college, but the lessons I’ve learned along the way are ones that I carry with me in all facets of my life – running + otherwise.
Like most good stories, we should probably start from the beginning. My sisters + I made our entrance into the world a bit early…about thirteen weeks early. As a result of this extremely premature birth, we were all three diagnosed with an eye condition called Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) – which basically means that because we were born early, our eyes + the surrounding structures/nerves weren’t able to fully develop. We all three have different degrees of ROP ranging from minimally impaired with correction (one of my sisters wears contacts + can drive a car, read standard sized fonts, etc.), to my other sister who has a moderate impairment (think larger fonts, magnifiers, audiobooks, + no driving), to me who has severe impairment (think Braille, white canes, audio output whenever possible, screen readers, functioning with little to no sight etc.)
You’re probably wondering where running comes into play here because this is a blog about movement + activity. I grew up with an extremely active family, I played basketball through middle school up until I couldn’t physically see enough to be safe on the court. I loved the sport and giving it up was devastating at the time. Little did I know the best was yet to come.
Running became a beacon of hope for me. It became something I could do regardless of what happened to my eyes. Today, even as someone who is confident in who they are as a blind person, running still provides me the consistency I need. I started running at 13 + haven’t stopped since.
As a blind person, I need sighted people to run with me. I use a tether – waist or hand held – to run safely. I rely on verbal cues + constant communication from start to finish. I didn’t stop with running, I lost a bet just before college + had to do a triathlon – something at the time I thought would be a “one + done.” Since then, I’ve competed as an NCAA triathlete, raced with Team USA’s triathlon team, raced + won multiple National Titles, + I compete amongst the best blind women in the world in triathlon.
I have been fortunate to swim, bike, + run alongside some pretty phenomenal humans – they’ve taught me more about life then I think they’ll ever know, so here’s something that has rang true for me lately that I think you all should leave this page with:
Surround yourself with people that make you want to be better – my guides (often faster runners than me) push me workout after workout to make gains and redefine my limits. I love them for that, + I can’t thank them enough, but I think it’s also important to remember that the people who push you to be better also want to be there for you after a failed PR attempt or on the hard days running related or otherwise. So whether you’re interested in guiding a blind runner, or just looking to get moving – grab a friend and go for a run, it might be the start of an amazing opportunity!