Visually Impaired Run the Boston

Visually Impaired Run the Boston

Posted under Living With Low Vision, Low Vision Info

This week I met my niece for supper who ran her first Boston Marathon. A cross country runner in high school and college, running is one of her passions.  Although she is fully sighted, did you know that many visually impaired people run the Boston Marathon?  In fact this year’s 2017 Boston Marathon marks the 25th year blind and visually impaired runners have participated in the big event. Many runners use more than one guide – they may start with one guide and switch to another one. One of those runners was a college senior from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wi.  Ian Kloehn is legally blind from optic nerve atrophy.   He can see well enough to get around the marathon course without special assistance, but is unable to see small details, like a runner’s race number.  Running at a pace of 6:25 per mile he finished in two hours and 48 minutes and was the fastest visually impaired runner at this year’s long distance race.

Another runner, Erich Manser, who is legally blind from retinitis pigmentosa, was the first runner to wear Google Glass to complete the Boston Marathon. Google Glass filmed the route as he ran and sent it to his running guide through an app. As the guide watched the video she was able to give Erich verbal feedback to keep him on course. Another running guide was by Manser’s side as they tried out this new technology for the first time. “We’re excited at the possibilities and we’re excited to share feedback and say what worked and what didn’t work,” said Manser.  Together, Erich and his running guide, Peter Sagal, ran for a bigger purpose than to complete the 26.2 miles.  Raising money for Team with a Vision, the joint effort of this visually impaired runner and sighted guide benefited the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (MABVI) .

You don’t have to run the Boston Marathon to enjoy running with low vision or vision impairment.   An organization called United in Stride founded in 2015 by MABVI matches visually impaired runners and sighted guides.  If you are visually impaired and want to be matched up with a running guide or if you are a sighted runner and would like to be a guide, check out what’s available in your area here: United in Stride

There are two different ways one with low vision can enjoy running with the help of a guide.  One is to run with a guide who will give you verbal instructions and guidance and the other is to run tethered to your guide who will also provide verbal cues.  Guides need to provide specific directions such as “Move right, a group of walkers is approaching on the left.”  Guides also offer a description of the terrain ahead, such as “We‘re approaching a long, steep hill.”

For more tips for runners with low vision visit:

Tips for Runners with Visual Impairment by the American Foundation for the Blind


Leslie Degner, RN, BSN