Ultrarunners are accustomed to overcoming a variety of obstacles during the course of endurance endeavors, be it technical terrain, inclement weather, physical limitations, self-doubt, or a myriad of other challenges.
Massachusetts residents Hannah DeFelice of Boston, Kyle Robidoux of Roxbury, and Brian Switzer of Easton, and their teammates, Randy Pierce of Nashua, N.H., Allison Lynch of New York City, and Jason Romero of Denver, Colo., were no different when they began the Reebok Ragnar Reach the Beach Relay this morning, Sept. 16, at the Bretton Woods Ski Area in New Hampshire.
The team, known as Team with A Vision, set out to take on the 203-mile relay event, with each member facing their own individual challenges like every other runner during the course of the race, which winds through the White Mountains and ultimately ends Saturday at Hampton Beach State Park.
While some of the team members’ challenges may be identical to those of other runners, they face one obstacle that other Ragnar teams won’t: eyesight.
According to a press release from the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (MABVI), they are the first all-visually impaired team to take on a Ragnar Relay event as an ultra team. Previously, another all-visually impaired team competed in a Ragnar event, but not as an ultra team. Ultra teams typically have half the number of runners as standard teams, and each ultra team member completes twice the distance of standard team members. By competing as an ultra team, each of the six runners will complete between 32 and 38 miles.
Scott Heffner of Salisbury, Mass., and New Hampshire residents Peter Houde, Keith Levitsky, Kim McCracken, William McElroy, and Mark Ryder form Team Coastal Athletic Association and will serve as sighted guides for the visually impaired runners.
The team was formed through a partnership between the MABVI, New Hampshire-based nonprofit organization 2020 Vision Quest, and the Coastal Athletic Association (CAA).
The team’s goal is to raise awareness for the abilities of athletes with disabilities everywhere while competing in one of the oldest relay races in the United States, according to the press release.
“I’m under no illusion, this is going to be very difficult for us and our guides,” said Pierce, who is President and Founder of 2020 Vision Quest in addition to being one of the runners, “but all of us will be united in striding towards a purpose, and a big part of that purpose is experiencing the human spirit on display in unity.”
Pierce and Houde, CAA Club President, previously ran together on MABVI’s Team With A Vision at the Boston Marathon. They collaborated with Robidoux, MABVI’s Director of Volunteer and Support Group Services, in organizing the Ragnar ultra team.
Robidoux completed the 100K race at the 2015 TARC 100 at Hale Reservation in Westwood, Mass. Previously, he ran 54.776 miles at the 24-Hour Around the Lake 12-hour event in 2014 in Wakefield, Mass.
Looking for a Sighted Guide, or Want to Become a Guide?
MABVI has created an online database at unitedinstride.com to pair visually impaired runners with guides. Runners interested in becoming guides and visually impaired runners seeking guides can register on the site.