In late September, runners across the nation received the dreaded news that the 2020 California International Marathon was canceled due to health and safety guidelines associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. For USABA runners and guides, it also meant the cancellation of the 2020 USABA Marathon National Championships, which are held in conjunction with the California International Marathon.
However, if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we must adapt and persevere, and that’s just what USABA staff and volunteer marathon director Richard Hunter did.
To fill the void left by the cancellation, USABA and Hunter organized the first-ever National Blind Running Unity Day presented by Allworth Financial, which took place on Sunday, December 6 – the scheduled date of the California International Marathon and USABA Marathon National Championships.
“One of the greatest things about the USABA Marathon National Championships is the community of runners who come together to encourage and motivate one another,” said Hunter. “Since the championships were canceled, it allowed us to pivot and be inclusive of more blind and visually impaired runners who would benefit from being part of this ever-growing community, but may not have any interest in running a marathon or are just beginning their jogging journey.”
With no registration fee, the premise of USABA’s National Blind Running Unity Day was to encourage visually impaired joggers and runners of all ability levels to lace up their shoes and go for a run, whether it was indoors on a treadmill or outside with a sighted guide.
The response was overwhelming. A total of 174 registrants from 30 states signed up to participate, and over 60 of those runners joined in two community Zoom sessions on Dec. 6, to share their experiences, encourage each other, and form a sense of community around the event.
There were so many great insights, suggestions, tips and tricks talked about on the Zoom calls that a USABA Running Club has been created on Strava to offer another connection point for blind and visually impaired runners and guides.
Driving the great turnout for the first National Blind Running Unity Day were leads coordinated by Hunter in nine cities across the nation. Those hub cities included Boston (Mass.), Chicago (Ill.), Louisville (Ky.), Nashville (Tenn.), Philadelphia (Pa.), Phoenix (Ariz.), Sacramento (Calif.), Seattle/Tacoma (Wash.) and Washington, D.C.
For those who benefited from the community aspect of the USABA National Blind Unity Running Day, USABA encourages you to come alongside another B/VI person who is similarly just starting the journey of being physically active. As Hunter said best, “We all took that first step at one time, and I bet someone came alongside you to make that happen. Let’s all pay that experience forward.”
National Blind Running Unity Day by the numbers:
Total Registrants: 174
Blind Runners: 91
States Represented: 30
Zoom Attendees: 60+