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Spotlight on Becky Andrews

“Running in the Boston Marathon” 

Becky Andrews
Here I am (center) with my guides on either side of me the night before the race

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.

My guide dog, Georgie, and I
My guide dog, Georgie, and I

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.

 

A tether is used to connect a runner and her guide.
A tether is used to connect a runner and a guide.

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.

***

Nearing the Finish Line!
Nearing the Finish Line!

 

                              B I O    

S
Becky Andrews

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
blindresilience.com/blog
Cruisinwithcricket.blogspot.com
georgiesvision.blogspot.com
www.resilientsolutionsinc.com
If you’d like to run as a visually impaired runner, join our community at:  unitedinstride.com

Friday Friends: Spotlight on Becky Andrews
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27 thoughts on “Friday Friends: Spotlight on Becky Andrews

  • May 15, 2015 at 12:54 pm
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    It was wonderful to experience this marathon run with Becky. Her words brought tears to my eyes. How wonderful that all the watchers gave encouragement along the way, and the two women guided her over the course. Reading about this makes me glad to be part of the human race.

  • May 15, 2015 at 2:17 pm
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    Congratulations on completing the marathon, Becky. That’s an amazing feat in itself, and I really enjoyed reading your story. The parts about the music and memories really spoke to me as music is something that brings back memories for you.

  • May 15, 2015 at 2:29 pm
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    I’m always impressed by people who train for this and accomplish it.

  • May 15, 2015 at 2:36 pm
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    This is great. It must bring such a feeling of accomplishment. I wish I were better at something like this. Glad you got to participate. Excellent spotlight.

  • May 15, 2015 at 6:12 pm
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    Hi Amy,
    What an inspiring post on Becky Andrews running the Boston Marathon 🙂

    Thanks so much for sharing 🙂

  • May 15, 2015 at 6:55 pm
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    This is so inspirational! I want to get back out there on longer runs too. How amazing for Becky to have run the Boston Marathon!

  • May 15, 2015 at 7:22 pm
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    I admire your accomplishment Becky! Congrats on doing something that many others only wish about. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  • May 15, 2015 at 11:10 pm
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    I so enjoyed this post. I am not a runner. Even when I was young, it was something I could not get into. But in my dreams, I would be running cross country sometimes, effortlessly. But not while being visually impaired! This post was so well written I ran alongside of you, Becky. Thank you for taking me along on your day of personal greatness.

  • May 16, 2015 at 12:00 pm
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    Hi Nick,
    Thank you for your question for Becky. I also wonder how long such a run might take. 🙂 So I can mentally prepare if I ever prepare for a marathon!
    Amy

  • May 16, 2015 at 12:01 pm
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    Hi Francene,
    Yes, reaffirming. It brought out all the comradery. I agree, wonderful!
    Amy

  • May 16, 2015 at 3:12 pm
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    I am grateful for reading this story.

    In recent months, any tale of the Boston Marathon is replete with misery, terror, and anger.

    Thank you for telling a tale of courage, joy, and victory. To you who run, we salute you.

  • May 16, 2015 at 4:04 pm
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    Hi David,
    Thanks for taking time out to read and comment on this story!
    You are so right. Becky offers a positive alternative to the current runaway,(pun intended) terror-driven take on this race.
    Amy

  • May 16, 2015 at 4:07 pm
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    Hi Alexandria,
    I completely agree. Music triggers events for me too just like certain scents and foods.
    Thanks so much for commenting.
    Amy

  • May 16, 2015 at 4:09 pm
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    Hi Carol,
    Yes, me too! I wonder how many years in advance one has to train to qualify for this marathon.
    Thanks for stopping by!
    Amy

  • May 16, 2015 at 4:14 pm
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    Hi Kerry,
    Glad you liked the spotlight and thanks for your comment.
    You’re taking steps everyday to bring your dreams closer. It might not be running but you have a goal and you will achieve it! You’re training right now for the travels you will take. 🙂
    Amy

  • May 16, 2015 at 4:16 pm
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    Hi Joan,
    Thanks! My Friday Friends column is one of my favorite vehicles of encouragement to myself and others in my Adventures blog!
    Amy

  • May 16, 2015 at 4:18 pm
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    Shonda,
    So you’re a runner, too? Great to hear that! 🙂
    Becky’s journey to the marathon really does make one want to set goals!
    Amy

  • May 16, 2015 at 4:19 pm
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    Keesha,
    So glad to have you here today and reading this story.
    Thank you for your comment!
    Amy

  • May 16, 2015 at 4:20 pm
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    Hi Alana,
    Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment to Becky. Her writing was wonderful, wasn’t it? She is thinking of writing her memoir and I’m sure this will encourage her!
    Amy

  • May 17, 2015 at 7:21 pm
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    Yes, it’s amazing to see the fruition of a dream like that, K. Lee!
    It encourages us all, I think! Thank you for reading my guest post and commenting!
    Amy

  • May 17, 2015 at 10:55 pm
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    Thank you Amy for inviting me to share our journey of running the Boston Marathon.
    Thank you everyone who left a comment!! I so appreciate it!

    Nick, In answer to your question – we ran the marathon in 5:07:14. It wasn’t my fastest time — a rainy, windy day … yet truly amazing!

    Francene, So well said. I agree. I was so inspired by the cheering each other on atmosphere … we need more of that in life!

    Alexandria, Yes, music has such an amazing ability to tap into those emotions and bring back memories. Love it!

    David, Thank you – your comment means a lot. Indeed our thoughts were with those who have experienced so much in the past two years. It was truly inspiring to see so many come out and support and run and show such resilience.

    Keesha, Thank you. There are so many ways we accomplish marathons, don’t you think. Running is just one of them.

    In answer to the question on how long it takes to prepare for a marathon. That depends. I started with shorter distances and gradually increased my distance to a half marathon and then a full marathon. A typical marathon training plan is 20 weeks. To run the Boston Marathon you have to qualify in a previous marathon by a certain time. For a blind runner you need to run in under 5 hours. I qualified by running the NYC Marathon last November with a time of 4:49.

    Thank you again for all your comments! Feel free to email me if you have more questions, becky.lpc@gmail.com and I’ll check back in to Amy’s awesome blog again as well.
    Alana, Love ‘thanks for taking us along on your day of personal greatness’ – that is such a cool way to think of it and thanks for reading. It has been fun to share. So appreciate your cheering us on!

    K. Lee, Thank you!

  • May 18, 2015 at 11:53 am
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    Congratulations Becky! And thank you Amy for sharing her encouraging story. Would love to see a book with all your Friday Friends 🙂 What a blessing!

  • May 18, 2015 at 1:46 pm
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    Thanks, Cindy!
    Who knows? Maybe in the future…
    Thanks for reading and commenting!
    Amy

  • May 26, 2015 at 9:48 pm
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    Becky,

    What an inspiration story and moment when you crossed the Boston Marathon finish line. I like your dogs, the music that helped encourage people, and your assistant.

    Amy, thanks for presenting her story.

    Dave

  • May 29, 2015 at 3:20 pm
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    Hi Dave,
    Thanks so much for reading Becky’s story! She is pretty inspirational and she is also very humble. She is considering writing a book. I think it would be a bestseller with all she has done. 🙂
    Amy

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