Running a Marathon Blind - Inspiration
|Thomas Panek and Gus at NYC Marathon|
Blind Runner Completes Race with his Guide Dog Gus
Thomas Panek became the first runner to complete the NYC Half Marathon with no sight. He crossed the finish line with his long time guide dog Gus. Panek lost his sight 25 years ago but he never lost his love of running. At first frightened to run, he started running again being guided by human volunteers. But, being tied to another person eliminated the independence of running for him. So, he tried an innovative approach - running with his guide dog. He made history at the NYC Half Marathon, finishing the race with his long time guide dog Gus with no human assistance.
The athlete is CEO of Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a nonprofit that provides "superbly bred and trained dogs for blind and visually impaired, free of charge. For the NYC race, Mr. Panek actually used his trio of three Lab guide dogs - Westley, Waffle and Gus, each for a third of the race. Gus took the runner to the finish line. Mission accomplished, so Gus retired. The dogs wore special harnesses and running boots to protect their paws. They keep the blind runner safe by spotting any obstacles and impediments in his way.
Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Panek has been running with his guide dogs for many years. In 2015, he established the Running Guides Program which trains dogs to support runners. He's completed more than 20 marathons with human volunteers as guides. He says he appreciated their support but missed the independence of just running with his guide dogs. At the NYC Half Marathon, he accomplished his goal of showing the world how to run a marathon without sight, confident in the guide dogs by your side. The team finished the race in 2 hours & 21 minutes.