When I set my sights on running a half marathon blindfolded to honor my little sister and support the fight against Batten disease, most people called me dedicated. Some people called me crazy.
My friend and sighted guide, Andrew, talked to fellow runners before we began training together in early June. Friends told him to be prepared for falls. It’s not easy for someone with two functioning eyes to learn to function as a blind person, and it’s even harder for a sighted person in a blindfold to learn to run at a fast clip while tethered to another person.
But through seven training runs, I didn’t fall. In fact, after a few shaky minutes on a middle school track near our neighborhood, we learned to navigate speed bumps, hills, 90-degree turns, cul-de-sacs, parked cars and cars with drivers behind the wheel. I twisted my left ankle the first night when I got a little cocky and tried to jump a curb, but I kept my balance, and I kept on running.
So that track record over the course of seven runs pretty much makes me the master of the blindfolded running universe, right?
A few minutes into our run last night – our first in three weeks after my sports medicine doctor mandated time off for my still-ailing left ankle – the high-cushioned Brooks shoe on my right foot caught a sliver of asphalt on the side of the road that sat a centimeter higher than the curb. My good ankle went right, then left, then right again. In my world of darkness, I felt my ankle go but didn’t have any idea what sat in my path. My body crashed into the black void in front of me as my ankle gave out. I didn’t have time to rip off the blindfold, so instinct took over, and I threw out my right hand – the hand on the side of the curb that took my ankle.
A millisecond later, Andrew helped me up from my sprawled position on the side of the dark street. I still had the blindfold on, but I already felt warm blood trickling down my left knee, and my right palm burned.
I had a gaping hole in my left knee where skin used to be. I scraped up my right knee, too. My right wrist hurt from breaking my fall. The blood trickled down my left leg, almost to my shoe. I yanked my blindfold the rest of the way over my ponytail and made a makeshift tourniquet. But I didn’t tie it over the wound; instead, I tied it around my ankle to protect my shoe. Brooks Glycerins cost $150, and mine only have 100 miles on them! Andrew got a good laugh out of that as he helped me back to my house, where I washed the asphalt out of my wound and…got a fresh blindfold.
We ran close to 0.3 miles before my fall. After I cleaned up, we ran another 2.8 for a total of 3.1, or a 5K. When Andrew delivered me back to my house for the second time, I remembered how, when Taylor ran her first 5K race in 2008, she fell and scraped up her knees, but when her running buddy asked her if she wanted to pull out, she said no, she wanted to cross that finish line. And that’s what she did.
I already had a broken body when I started this gig. I might have a few more broken pieces before I get through. But I’ll cross that finish line on Nov. 16 for my sister.
I will run the Thunder Road Half Marathon blindfolded to support gene therapy co-funded by Taylor’s Tale at the University of North Carolina Gene Therapy Center. Donations to this cause are 100 percent tax-deductible. To support my run and our fight to develop treatments for Batten disease and other genetic diseases, click here.
Join the Taylor’s Tale team at Thunder Road! Click here to register for the marathon, half marathon or 5K. On the second page of registration, under “Event Groups/Teams,” select “Taylor’s Tale” from the list under “Choose an Existing Group.” Run for us to help raise awareness on race day. Stay tuned for more details, including special shirts for team members and an informal post-race event!