On Sunday, I ran the NYC Marathon as a guide for Achilles International. Achilles is an organization for people with disabilities in which they help their lives through athletic programs and social connection. It is my second time running as a guide with Achilles, and second time with my blind athlete, Eddie. It is always a very difficult, but extremely humbling and rewarding experience. The most heartwarming is meeting other athletes and hearing their stories — they are warriors and truly survivors.
I met Eddie at the expo on Friday. He came with a fellow visually impaired friend and it was so difficult to see them find their path in the expo. All of a sudden it came back to me how hard it is to guide someone and to be their eyes, ears, bodyguards, pacers, water fetcher, and protectors.
Eddie is not vocal that he needs help, but I learned from my experience with him 4 years ago that I needed somewhere written that he was blind. Otherwise, only the people who knew Achilles would know that he had a disability, because it is not clear when you meet him. It was also going to be very hot, so I cut off my shirt — very ghetto, but it worked.
The morning before, I practiced guiding with my dog — not the same, but it worked. And was a great shake out run.
Morning of, I woke up at 4 am to eat my oatmeal (first breakfast) and coffee, and headed to the bus at 515. The bus was full of Achilles runners and their guides. I sat next to a woman who told me her story of getting hit by a car when she was running 5 years ago, and was in a wheelchair for years, brain trauma, etc…And here she was completing her second marathon since the accident. Unbelieavable.
Getting my shoes on before the long day. You have to get to Staten Island super early because they need all the roads closed off for the marathon. I was waiting on Staten Island for almost 4 hours. Luckily, Achilles has a nice VIP area with lots of portapotties with no lines, food, etc….
I ran into our dear friend, Sasha, who was my brother and Ken’s roommate at Amherst. Sasha was hit by a tree (yes a tree, not a car) in Central Park 13 years ago when he was walking to work. He was not supposed to live, but he did, and continues to work at Google and inspires everyone with his commitment to rights of disabled (especially with the subway system). He completed his first marathon!
Eddie was super pumped, very grateful, and really excited to start running.
The vibe before the race.
I met these two guys who were incredibly kind and funny, and I loved hearing their stories. James, the man on the left, is blind. William on the right, was his guide. They had traveled from Nashville and on their way to the NYC Marathon, got arrested in the Atlanta Airport because James ordered a beer but they wouldn’t serve him because he didn’t have a driver’s lisence (blind, so can’t drive). He showed them his state ID, but they wouldn’t accept it, so they were unhappy, and said to eff off, and they got arrested, taken to jail. James was not given his cane and fell in the jail, hence the big scar on his head……..
Love the neon shirts.
It was quite the race. We started out strong. There was a second guide, Bridget, to help us, which was super helpful as the other set of eyes. But she wasn’t as prepared, and by mile 10, she had fallen back and we lost her……
The three of us at the beginning.
Eddie leaning on me when his cramp first started and before things got really bad.
At mile 25.6, Eddie’s leg cramped up and he was not able to run anymore. With the help of three random strangers, we were able to carry him for a little bit. But then literally at mile 26.1 (0.1 from finish line), he passed out. Literally, passed out. Fainted. I ran to a medic, got a wheelchair, and crossed him over the finish line. We were on track to do a low 3:30s, but obviously that didn’t happen.
In the end, I walked home without a medal (I went straight to the medical tent, where they wouldnt let me in). Eddie ended up getting heat exhaustion with a 105 fever and had to spend the rest of the day in the hospital. I got a blister, drank some champagne and had nachos.
Overall, feel extremely thankful to the 3 gentleman who didn’t care about their time to help me help Eddie, grateful for my two eyes, and honored to have had the chance to help Eddie. It took a lot out of me, but am so happy that I had the chance to do this one more time with him…..happy week!