I had the amazing opportunity to be a part of Simon Wheatcroft‘s journey from Boston to NYC!  I’m no stranger to the visually impaired community, having guided David Kuhn at the last three Boston Marathons on Team With a Vision.  So when I heard of Simon’s adventure, it was a must that I reach out and see if there was any way I could be a part of it.  I first met Simon and crew at Runkeeper’s send off event at the Greater Boston Running Company, where he told his story and got to meet Kat, the voice of Runkeeper.  Hearing Simon speak about his upcoming event was exhilarating, he seemed so calm, appreciative, and in great spirits.  A question was asked if he had any special drinks or food he liked while running and when he said he “loved to eat whatever made him happy, whether it be crisps or candy bars,” I knew he was my kind of runner!  All too often if I’m in training mode, I’ll nosh on chocolate cake or cookies for breakfast without a care!  It’s not often I get to meet fellow sighted guides, so when I introduced myself to Neil Bacon and we began swapping stories of our experiences and techniques, I knew Simon was in great hands!  It’s difficult for any great visually impaired runner to be successful without the help of a partner/team for support and from what I could tell, this was one superstar team!

andrea feat

Thursday AM was the send off run and in true Boston spirit, it was torrential downpour.  Folks inspired by Simon’s story were there, seasoned runners, and newbies alike; this weather and early morning wasn’t going to stop us!  We shook our fists at the sky and took off in great spirits!  As we ran, we took pride in showing off our city, running by monuments and parks, and boasting of the history.  As we neared the Boston Marathon finish line, we all were cheering, some leaving to go to work, and some continued on with Simon, but we all felt a great sense of camaraderie and connection to Simon’s adventure.

Thursday night, after Simon’s first marathon, I was able to invite the Wheatcroft crew to meet a visually impaired member of Team With a Vision, Erich Manser.  Here’s what he had to say about that night:

You have to hand it to Simon Wheatcroft, he doesn’t play around. As “extreme” activities such as marathons, rock-climbing and X-terra racing open to blind participants, Simon has opted to skip any “entry-level” stuff to tackle the most Ultra of ultra-running.

Needless to say, it was thrilling when Runkeeper & Team With A Vision invited me to dine with Simon as he began his latest ultra-challenge, a run from Boston-to-New York City, capped with the New York City marathon. While being a blind runner myself got me a spot on the guest list, it was an honor & struggle to consider myself anywhere near Simon’s “league.” We each ordered the Short Rib Ravioli, and I would have said that the similarities ended there.

A nice thing about amazing blind athletes is their sense that everything is possible. Simon is no different, and as we spoke I realized he’s faced some of the challenges which lie ahead for me (we share the same condition, Retinitis Pigmentosa) and that meeting such incredible, accomplished blind people helps me along my own path toward self-actualization.

We chatted comfortably about running shoes and nutrition, smartphones and promising eye treatments, but my biggest take-away from dining with Simon Wheatcroft was that meeting him—and so many others in this incredible group of blind athletes I have the privilege of counting myself—is an essential ingredient to becoming the best I can be.

Thanks & Congratulations, Simon & Team. Thank you Runkeeper, and Team With A Vision for including me.

Clearly I didn’t get enough Wheatcroft, and so made it a point to meet up with Simon and his crew Oct 29th while he was on day 6 of his adventure in CT. Running one marathon for anyone is a feat (sighted or visually impaired), let alone back to back, and I had no idea what to expect when we met up.  I was completely blown away!  The team was in astounding spirits, Neil Bacon, Big Neil, Simon, and Ali Murphy, and I ran briefly with a high school team before we took off on leg #5.  One of the most enjoyable things about running as a team for me is how it puts everyone, no matter your speed, together as a unit—no man left behind!  If someone needed to walk or rest, we did just that, because this mission was greater than us as individuals, and the only way we could succeed was if we were all encouraging of each other.  The usual events happened while we ran, cars honked, people waved, we slowed to walk, tell stories, and best of all in that short five miles, we became a team.   After we parted ways, I felt proud and humbled by Simon and his crew, but knew we would all connect on some level again.  My face was in permanent smile mode all day and nothing could have changed that!

Here are some of my favorite quotes/moments of that day:

  • Simon: “It smells posh here”
  • Simon bragging about his new profile picture for twitter and Neil B commenting that “Yeh, it didn’t look like you at all”
  • Neil B explaining what Yummy Mummies were.
  • Finding out Simon loved Bob’s Burgers as much as I did.  Even across the pond, actors Kristen Schaa and Eugene Mirman make an impression!
  • Big Neil is a social worker, that made me smile.  He’s one big teddy bear!
  • Neil Bacon’s mutual affinity for sarcasm
  • Hearing stories of where photographer David would hide to take his amazing shots.  Including one time laps one of when he fell backwards but continued to shoot with the last shot of Simon and Neil standing over him.  I hope that series makes it to the world wide web.

I can’t thank you enough for supporting Simon Wheatcroft and his crew on their adventure and making this all possible.

Happy Running!