I would say that most sports take a considerable amount of effort, expertise and equipment to get started but running would not be included in that list. After all, if you have a working pair of legs and a strong enough heart, you can run. That isn’t to say, however, that we would all be on the same level when we are first starting out and for some of us, we may have obstacles to overcome. That fact was seen clearly in this weekend’s United Airlines New York City Half Marathon.
A blind man was able to participate in the race for the first time this year using running guide dogs instead of human guides. His name was Thomas Panek and he did more than run the race, he ran it in style.
He is president and CEO of Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a nonprofit that helps train dogs for running (including his dogs). The race on St. Patrick’s Day was run to help raise funds, as well as awareness, of other runners who are blind with a versatile service dog. That dog would be able to guide the human at all times, including when they were running.
Panek is a long distance runner and he knows how much of a game changer it can be for a runner to have one of these dogs.
The 13.1-mile half-marathon was run along with a trio of Labrador Retrievers leading him through the course. The dogs were Waffle (yellow lab), Westley (black lab) and Gus (yellow lab). Interestingly, this isn’t the first time they had run a race together.
Gus was the first running guide dog to cross the finish line at the NYRR and Boston Athletic Association Event. Because of this, he was able to run the last leg of the race with Panek and take him across the finish line. This was the last race for Gus as a running partner and personal guide dog. The dog is now retired from racing.
Panek, vets, and volunteers kept a close eye on the health and well-being of the dogs as they ran the race. This included their personal safety and hydration. Even their paws were protected with special shoes. You couldn’t have asked for a better day to run the race. The weather was crisp and cool that morning as they wound their way through the streets of NYC.
When Panek and Gus crossed the finish line, the clock read 2 hours, 20 minutes and 51 seconds. It was a wonderful accomplishment for both dog and human.
Blind runner makes history with guide dogs
MAKING STRIDES: This blind runner made history Sunday — by finishing the New York City Half Marathon with the help of three extraordinary guide dogs. https://cbsn.ws/2F9kotaPosted by CBS This Morning on Monday, March 18, 2019