For the past several months I’ve been training for the NYC Marathon. While I didn’t toe the starting line or cross the finish line it was one of the most exhilarating and proudest races I’ve ever had the privilege to be a part of. NYC was my first marathon many years ago and this past Sunday, it was my friend Amelia’s first marathon too. The energy and excitement in the city on marathon Sunday is life changing for runners and spectators alike. Every one of the 48,000 runners has a story and every one of the hundreds of thousands of spectators is fueled by their perseverance, strength and determination. From the superhuman speeds of the front runners, to the seemingly impossible perseverance of the very last finisher; from the challenge to set a personal best, to the humbling goal of simply making it to the finish; for those who are blessed with health and those who break down the barriers of their mental or physical disabilities, a marathon is so much more than 26.2 miles.
Amelia’s story is one of complete blindness and it is also one of passion and heart.
From our first 6 mile run together when she taught me how to guide her, to our routine early morning 10 milers, to her first run up a 14,000ft mountain, to those long 20 mile training runs, every step training with Amelia has been a pleasure and an honor for me to be a part of. And along the way not only did she become a marathoner, she became my role model and inspiration.
This past Sunday, I was there to cheer her on at mile 19 of the NYC Marathon and then jumped in and joined her between miles 22 and 24. As I ran along side her and her amazing guides down 5th Avenue and into Central Park my feet didn’t touch the ground. Between her grunts and groans, there was pride, perseverance and passion. And between my yells and cheers, there were tears of joy. Every step she took was one step further than she’d ever run before, one step harder than the last, one step closer to becoming a marathon runner and one step beyond the barrier of sight.
Her guide, Jonathan, who ran the full distance with her wrote a beautiful piece on his experience which was published in Slate magazine yesterday:
…Running alongside Amelia, intensely watching the road and the racers all around us, listening over the roar of the crowds for any instruction or question, running for Amelia—it became one of the most emotionally overwhelming and wonderful experiences I’ve ever had. Going into it, I wanted to support a woman who loved to run as I love to run. Who loves it so much that the difficulty of running blind among 48,000 others is not going to stop her from doing it. Who is open enough to let us into her life and is willing and able to trust us with her well-being. And all that happened. But on Sunday, running took on an entirely unknown dimension and Amelia’s marathon showed me that running for someone is the best statement about the joy of running I could ever hope to make.
In the end, Amelia Dickerson finished the 2013 NYC Marathon in 3:35:44. She was 6,287th out of 48,000 runners and the 925th woman to finish. I also finished in that time, but I do not appear in the race results. I wasn’t running for me. I was running for Amelia.
Congratulations, Amelia! And thank you to her team of Achilles guides who accompanied her during the marathon, to all of the Achilles Colorado team for being part of her journey here in Colorado, to Becky for sharing Amelia’s story through film, and to Mike Oliva for changing my life when he introduced me to her. You are the heart and soul of this sport.
A documentary film-maker has been following Amelia’s training in Boulder and documented her marathon experience this weekend. I’ll be sure to share the film with you once it’s completed (you can also follow the movie’s Facebook page). Here’s a short pre-marathon teaser of the film which is called “An Unseen Run”
Amelia Dickerson is a 30-year-old runner. She has been running since she was in high school and has a passion for the sport bigger than I have ever seen. That passion has propelled her into the ranks of elite runners. But what sets Amelia apart is that she is fully blind. She holds the national 5K record for blind runners (20:38), qualified to race in Barcelona this past summer, and now is taking on the ING New York City Marathon.
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