“Running in the Boston Marathon”
April 20, 2015. It was a dream come true. I was at the Boston Marathon with nearly 30,000 other runners. There were 40 blind/visually impaired runners, including 25 from our Team with a Vision.
Excitement was in the air. It was raining and chilly, and I’d been up for hours, yet my heart was warm with anticipation and gratitude for this moment. As a visually-impaired runner, I could have one guide on the course with me. Brenda would begin the course and Suzette would run the second half. I felt tears coming to my eyes as Brenda and I approached the starting line and the announcer said, “Welcome to the Boston Marathon…”
As a visually-impaired runner, I could have one guide on the course with me. Brenda would begin the course and Suzette would run the second half. I felt tears coming to my eyes as Brenda and I approached the starting line and the announcer said, “Welcome to the Boston Marathon…”
I stayed near Brenda as we began to run. It was so crowded with all the runners that we ran “sighted guide. ” We began to get in a stride and I reflected further on this amazing experience.
So much work had led to this moment including three marathons I had already run to qualify for Boston. There had been injuries along the way, including a broken foot, a broken toe and an IT Band injury. My guides and I had completed weeks of preparation and juggled work and family schedules to meet the commitments of long runs.
I loved hearing the sound of the runners’ feet hitting the pavement – that collective sound of individual training and preparation. People were cheering from the sidelines – “You got this,” they called, “Thank you for coming to Boston, You can do this!” It was inspiring to hear so many people cheering for others – most of whom they did not know.
When I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa almost 32 years ago, it felt like many doors were closing in my life. I felt overwhelmed and frightened, but learned to take each challenge as it came.
I thought about my journey of vision loss and how much it had been like a marathon. Take it a step at a time. Prepare as much as you can. There will be times of hitting a ‘wall’ and feeling overwhelmed. Be open-minded. Listen to your heart. Have faith. Find the people around that will you support you and cheer you on. Keep going. The victories will come.
As we continued to run, the rain changed from a drizzle to a downpour, back to a drizzle with some wind. We were making good time as the miles clicked by. We navigated through the runners to reach our pace. Brenda guided me as we ran. “To your right, diagonal to the left,” she’
say as we weaved through other runners and enjoyed the journey. We soon realized navigating through the puddles was impossible.
Music played from speakers along the course. At one point in the run we heard the song, “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. When I had been training with my third guide dog, Georgie, the year prior, this song had been playing in the van each morning as we waited to go on our route. I couldn’t help but smile to think of my Georgie and I felt such gratitude for all three of my guide dogs: Pantera, Cricket, and Georgie, who have helped me navigate safely for the past 18 years. Literally, being able to walk safely again helped me believe that I could run again, too.
The crowd of runners had thinned as Suzette and I began to run, so we were able to use the tether. Suzette was not only running as my eyes but also supporting me as I began to feel some physical fatigue of the marathon journey. She offered some Gatorade, water, or other energy food. As we ran, Suzette described what was around us – beautiful homes, signs from spectators, and other landmarks along the journey.
At mile 15, Neil Diamond’s, “Sweet Caroline” was playing. Just two nights before, my family and I had enjoyed a baseball game at Fenway Park and had sung this song with the crowd. As we continued to run, I sang the words in my head, as I’m sure many other runners were doing, too. As we reached the point in the song, “So Good, So Good, So Good,“ we all sang out together. This was so good. I reflected on how hard times such as running a marathon bring such blessings and great experiences as well. I found myself again thinking about the journey of losing my vision from Retinitis Pigmentosa. The lessons, experiences, blessings, friendships have far outweighed the loss.
Near mile 24 on the crest of a hill we had stopped to walk for a minute when, we heard our support team calling our names. They lifted my spirits and reminded me that I could get to that finish line. As we rounded the corner to run on Boylston Street to the finish line, the joy of the moment surpassed the exhaustion and physical pain I was feeling. I had run the Boston Marathon. I was wet and cold but my heart was warm and grateful for those who had shared it with me.
As we rounded the corner to run on Boylston Street to the finish line, the joy of the moment surpassed the exhaustion and physical pain I was feeling. I had run the Boston Marathon. I was wet and cold but my heart was warm and grateful for those who had shared it with me.
B I O
Becky Andrews is a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor with a master’s degree from Utah State University and further training from the University of Utah. She is also one of three Fellow Thanatologists in Utah. Her passion is helping others navigate through difficult challenges in their lives. After working at the Moran Eye Center and LDS Family Services for several years, Becky, with her husband, Steve, build Resilient Solutions, Inc in 2006. Resilient Solutions employs 15 therapists. In 2014 they established a nonprofit: The Oasis Center for Hope with the mission to help individuals, families and communities who are experiencing a loss.
Becky is following her dreams blindly. Literally. At the age of 18, as a freshman in college, she was diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease, Retinitis Pigmentosa. She is currently accompanied by her third guide dog, Georgie.
She serves as chair of the national alumni board for Guide Dogs for the Blind, is past president of the Utah Chapter of the Foundation Fighting Blindness, and a frequent presenter on finding your personal resilience. Becky is passionate about advocating for people with disabilities and has conducted numerous trainings to schools, corporations, and communities. She was voted Wasatch Woman of the Year in 2011. In 2013 she received the American Mothers National Mother of Achievement Award in New York City. She has tandem biked thousands of miles with her husband, Steve. After rediscovering her love of running with the help of dear friends who serve as her guides, she has run four marathons including the NYC Marathon and the Boston Marathon just a few weeks ago.
Steve and Becky were married 31 years ago. They have a daughter, Natalie, and son, Kendall.
To learn more about and connect with Becky, check out these links:
Becky Peterson Andrews
Resilient Solutions, Inc
Oasis Center for Hope
If you’d like to run as a visually impaired runner, join our community at: unitedinstride.com