Thursday, June 4, 2009

Blind Runner Qualifies for Olympic Trials

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Blind runner qualifies for Olympic Trials at the Run for the Red
Beth Brelje
Pocono Record Writer
May 07, 2007
Source Link: Pocono Record

"I think I'm dreaming." Wrapped in a foil blanket Susan
Graham-Gray's eyes brimmed with tears of accomplishment.
The top women's finisher in the Run for the Red Marathon
was surrounded by microphones and photographers.

She got laughs when asked about toughest part of the
race, answering "Anything after 17 miles." That is about
the time when the run gets mental and your legs get
tired, she said.

She made mention of having "vision problems," but
downplayed it and focused on having achieved her
life-long dream of qualifying for the Olympic trials.
To qualify, runners must finish in less than 2 hours 47
minutes on a certified course.

Graham-Gray of Greencastle, finished in 2 hours
and 45 minutes.

Having missed the Olympics in 2004, Graham-Gray
called this her last chance.

Graham-Gray, 38, is blind. She suffers from
Stargardt's disease, a progressive macular
degeneration that starts in the center of the field
of vision. She was diagnosed at age 30, now
has limited peripheral vision and really no
depth perception, making divots, bumps and rocks
unrecognizable. Something like a train track could
be difficult to maneuver.

To navigate the marathon, Graham-Gray used two

Runner Tim Skolzen, 27, ran with her and called
out any road imperfections. As a back up, coach
Mike Spinnler peddled a bike behind
the two, ready to jump in if needed.

But guides are not always available. A problem
she works around by training 80 to 90 miles a
week running on a treadmill. A typical week
also includes two to three miles of swimming
and two or three intense weight sessions,
according to Coach Spinnler.

Beyond Graham-Gray's grueling Olympic
training commitments, she is the mother of three
children, a 7-year-old and 5-year-old twins.

A lot of people with her diagnosis would have
stopped running, Spinnler said, but, he said, "She
is one of the toughest athletes I know. Remarkable."

Now that she qualifies, Graham-Gray will be
able to run in the Olympic trials in Boston, April

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