A Blind Runner and His Very Good Boy#WATWB

A Blind Runner and His Very Good Boy#WATWB

Social media and news in recent times has been filled with hate and negativity. Just as you cannot fight darkness, only light lamps, Hate and Negativity cannot be fought. You need to bring Love and Positivity forward instead.

I bring to you the We Are the World Blogfest, along with these fabulous co-hosts:

Special thanks to our cohosts for this month:  Shilpa Garg,  Guilie Castillo, Belinda Witzenhausen, Mary Giese,  and Sylvia McGrath.

“We Are the World Blogfest” seeks to promote positive news. There are many an oasis of love and light out there, stories that show compassion and the resilience of the human spirit. Sharing these stories increases our awareness of hope in our increasingly dark world.

Check out one such story, posted 3 days ago at https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/good-news/a-blind-runner-and-his-very-good-boy/ar-AAtZCgT. In a few days, be sure to check out what happens at:

http://www.nyrr.org/races-and-events/2017/poland-spring-marathon-kickoff-5m

The blind runner’s can-do attitude inspired me to:

1. Do my best no matter the odds against me.

2. Remember that a real friend is someone you can depend on to be there if you need him or her, and

3. Remember, as the Beatle song puts it: “I get by with a little help from my friends.”

A brief synopsis of the article follows:

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A Blind Runner and His Very Good Boy, The New York Times, By DANIEL KRIEGER

Thomas Panek had been a runner from a young age, and continued to compete in road races after he was blinded in his early 20s. Whether he ran the New York City Marathon or the Boston Marathon, human guides, connected by a tether, led his way.

And yet Mr. Panek, now 47, has wondered what it would be like to run with one of his guide dogs, but was told that guide dogs were not appropriate for long-distance running, let alone a race.

One morning in April 2014, a friend brought up running with a guide dog: “Why don’t you see if it’s possible?”

He began dwelling on the challenges and held a focus group for the blind community to weigh in. In early 2015, the first program for training guide dogs to run with their handlers occurred. For the pilot, Mr. Panek used his guide dog, Gus, a yellow Lab. “I’ll have to prove it’s safe,” he recalled.

On Oct. 29, Mr. Panek and Gus hope to reach this milestone when they run the Poland Spring Marathon Kickoff, a five-mile race in Central Park, without human assistance.

“Gus sets the pace,” he said, “and I follow him.” Trotting at a nine-minute-mile clip, Gus, 5, is trained to avoid obstacles, slow down for congestion and, above all, keep Mr. Panek safe.

Moving with abundant caution and focus, Gus is unfazed by the steady flow of bicycles, horses, pedestrians and other dogs streaming past in both directions. Six miles is the maximum distance Guiding Eyes allows its dogs to run.

“We want to make sure that the dog is happy and healthy while running,” Mr. Panek said.

As for the five-miler this weekend, Mr. Panek said he is feeling more butterflies for that than for the New York City Marathon, which he will run for the second time the following Sunday. “But I’m also confident that Gus is going to get me through it,” he added. “This will be a good first step to show that it’s possible for me to run a race without a human guide.”

A New York Road Runners spokesman, Chris Weiller, said in a recent phone interview that the events team has thought through this and is comfortable with Mr. Panek’s plan, which includes having a vet present and water breaks.

“We want Thomas and the dog to have a good run and be safe,” he said. To ensure that, a spotter on a bicycle will follow along in case any problems arise. Mr. Panek will start off in the rear; and Gus will wear a bib so all can see he is an official participant.

And if all goes well with the race, the next step will be to develop best practices for other blind runners, “to set the standard for running a race with a guide dog,” Panek said. “Gus contributes,” he said. “He’s my training partner.”

7 thoughts on “A Blind Runner and His Very Good Boy#WATWB

  1. It’s extraordinary how people make use of their misfortune to benefit others. What a wonderful initiative LIzbeth … kudos to Thomas Panek & his beautiful guide dog Gus. May the New York Road Runners see the value in this and may it spread far and wide .. Thank you great #WATWB post!

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting, Susan. I just left a comment on your site after reading your awesome story on the 106 year old man who recently died, who rescued over 600 children from the Nazis. What a wonderful legacy, and what a great man. I enjoyed reading about his opinions on religion, etc. A man who lived his beliefs, who was ethical rather than “religious.” Unforgettable.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Lynda. Yes, a great pairing. Tomorrow, Sunday, the race will happen. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for this brave blind man and his golden Gus.

      I also read your posting. How lovely to learn about those ICU grandparents!

  2. I have seen stories about a man running marathons tethered to another person. I wonder if it was him. What a great idea to run with his dog, though! Obviously a marathon would be too long for one dog so good for them to be doing a 5 mile race. Hopefully it goes well and they show that others can run with their dogs, too. Thanks for sharing this Lizbeth!

    1. Thanks for commenting, Emily, and for sharing your orphanage story as well. I haven’t heard that story, but a truly amazing blind man spoke here in Hawaii, and he climbed mountains and rode rapids. Amazing and brave. I hope the race goes well tomorrow, and that blind folks everywhere are helped to gain more independence.

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