Blind marathoner will run for guide dogs

Amy Freeze reports how a blind man is planning to run the Boston Marathon with the help of a running guide.
April 20, 2014 4:58:15 AM PDT
A Yorktown Heights man is running the Boston Marathon on Monday after an exceptionally challenging road to get to the start line. As all eyes focus on the finish, his view will be much different than most of the runners.

Tom Panek, the CEO Guiding Eyes for the Blind, thought his running days were over. "I lost my sight in my 20s and I stopped running and I didn't think I could do it again."

But he found confidence and optimism, and eventually returned to running! Now the married father of four, Panek is the CEO Guiding Eyes for the Blind and is taking on the race.

"I committed to Boston because of what happened last year and I wanted to show you can overcome any challenge even if you are blind," he said.

To qualify, he ran a race in Sacramento, Calif., where race-day temperatures were sub-freezing.

"When I got there ? the course was very slippery at water stops -- water turned to ice. As a blind runner, [the ice] adds to the challenge!," said Panek.

He credits his accomplishments to a solid support system and Gus, his 2-year-old yellow lab. But Gus won't be navigating the marathon. Instead, Panke showed will use running guides that let him know if there is an obstacle.

"Boston is the world cup of marathons and the ultimate goal for any runner: qualify and finish Boston.

He also wants to raise $1,000 for every mile he runs in the marathon for the Guiding dogs. He admits that when he crosses the finish line, he won't see what everyone else does.

"I'm imagining the moment to cross the finish line -- the exhilaration, the feeling of accomplishment and being in Boston for the ultimate race."