Fastest course in the west.

Visually impaired runners offer speed, inspiration

11/15/2012, 8:45am PST
By CIM

USABA national championships return to CIM stronger than ever

Nov. 15, 2012
For immediate release

The U.S. Association of Blind Athletes National Championships earned a place on the marquee last year at the California International Marathon, with Aaron Scheidies and Amy McDonaugh delivering compelling, memorable performances.

Don’t be surprised if the encore is even better.

Since the CIM added a Visually Impaired Division in 2007, the event keeps improving. That was evident last year, when Seattle’s Scheidies won the men’s USABA marathon title in 2:48:19 and McDonaugh (Irmo, S.C.) claimed women’s honors with a 2:49:28 effort.

Look for more speed and inspiration in the 30th annual California International Marathon on Dec. 2.

Scheidies, who overcame a hereditary eye condition that’s left him with 20 percent of normal sight to become a seven-time World Triathon champion, plans to better last year’s effort.

“My running’s been going better than ever before,” said Scheidies, who won the Visually Impaired Half Marathon National Championships in October with a 1:18:06 effort.

“I’m pretty much focusing on really doing good at CIM. I expect to blow my time away.”

He could be pushed by New Zealand’s Rob Matthews, a 22-time world record holder who has won eight Paralympic gold medals for Great Britain. Matthews, whose autobiography “Running Blind” was published in 2008, suffers from Retinitis Pigmentosa, which causes progressive vision loss.

Other top visually impaired runners include Matthew Rodjam, the 2010 USABA national marathon champion, and Adrian Broca, a 2:50 marathoner who won the Boston Marathon’s Visually Impaired title in 2007 and 2010.

“We’ve been able to attract some of the top visually impaired runners in the country,” said Folsom’s Richard Hunter, a visually impaired marathoner who has helped grow and develop the event.

“I’m really excited about it. I like the idea of a lot of visually impaired runners coming together at one place.”

The visually impaired championship field has grown from 18 to 30, with about half expected to compete in the marathon and the other half in the relay. The event is sponsored by Vision Service Plan.

Hunter is one of several local runners competing in the championship.

Scheidies said he was impressed with the way the visually impaired runners were treated last year at the CIM.

“I thought it was amazing,” he said. “I thought we were treated really well at the start. We had our own tent. I think that’s good.

“USABA and Richard Hunter have done a really amazing job of growing the event. It will probably only continue to get bigger.”

Hunter hopes so.

“It’s about educating and changing the public’s perception of what’s possible,” he said. “It’s truly become a community event.”

The visually impaired runners will use guides to help them navigate the 26.2-mile course from Folsom to the state Capitol.

A field of more than 9,300 marathoners, 4,400 relay runners and 2,000 Kaiser maraFUNrun entrants is expected for the CIM, which starts at 7 a.m.

The CIM is put on by the Sacramento Running Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to finding ways to encourage people of all ages and abilities to run. The SRA is committed to developing new, quality running events that appeal to a broad variety of runners.

Other SRA events include the recently concluded Lake Natoma Four Bridges Half Marathon, the Super Bowl Sunday 10k Run on Feb. 3 and the Credit Union SACTOWN Ten-Mile Run on April 7.

SRA beneficiaries include the American River Parkway, youth fitness programs, local running venues and aspiring young runners.