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MONUMENTAL STORIES

3/1/14 - Running Blind

by Kristin Fleschner and Michelle Wade

A Runner and Her Guide

Kristin & her guide dog Zoe at IMM Health and Fitness Expo Kristin & her guide dog Zoe at IMM Health and Fitness Expo Kristin : I just wanted to say THANK YOU for the awesome race. I can't tell you how much support we had and what a difference it made. I had a goal of coming in at 5 hours - the time needed for a blind runner to qualify for Boston. I came in at 4:44. My guide, an avid Indy runner, Michelle Wade was amazing. We had the excellent support of 2 bikers from miles 7-26. They helped us navigate areas that were busy but stayed well enough out of the way to let my guide do her job. I assume that the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon team was responsible for asking them to support our effort and we are so appreciative. The runners were all very polite and cheered and stayed out of the way. I really could not have asked for a better day. I am so grateful for your support and the opportunity to run this race in my home state. It was a day I will NEVER forget!

Michelle : I truly cannot tell you how much of an honor and privilege it was to be Kristin's guide for this marathon. I initially was introduced to Kristin through a mutual friend/coach back in November 2012. At that time, Kristin was looking for a guide for a half Ironman triathlon in March of 2013. Kristin is an organ transplant recipient and has to undergo frequent medical procedures. Her health got in the way of her training for the triathlon, so we put her plans on hold. I was going to be in Boston for the 2013 Boston Marathon. My husband and I were both running the race and had plans to meet Kristin in person for the first time after we completed the race. We all know how that day turned out and needless to say, I never got a chance to meet her.

Michelle & Kristin make run the entire 26.2 miles side by side Michelle & Kristin make run the entire 26.2 miles side by side We had discussed other possible triathlons for the summer of 2013, but I believe what happened that day in Boston put the idea in her head to think about a qualifying attempt for the 2014 Boston Marathon. We discussed it and I told her about the Monumental Marathon. She liked the idea that it was in her home state and that her parents could easily make the trip. We firmed up the plans and signed up. In the meantime, I ran the Fox Valley Marathon in September with a PR and Boston qualifier time. However, the 2014 race was full, so my time will count for 2015. Kristin and I kept each other updated on training and we were both excited for Monumental. She experienced some health problems about a week before the race, and we both wondered whether she was going to make it to the start line. At that time, the talk of a BQ time was silenced and we were just wanting a start and a finish. Once she got the go ahead to race, we were both thrilled.

I met her for the first time at the expo. Our families went to dinner together and we talked about our race plan. We were ready! The next morning my husband, daughter and I met up with Kristin and her parents at the hotel at 6:30 am. My husband and her father were running the half. My daughter was going to be with Kristin's mother to spectate the race. We all walked to the start line and before you knew it, we were off! We clicked into a grove right away. I had a clear expectation of what she needed out of me as her guide. I knew her race goal and I assured her that I would keep us on pace to run a smart race. We would start at a slower pace and re-evaluate at mile 5. At mile 5, she felt great, so we slowly started to increase the pace. This was my 13th marathon, I have run Boston for 5 years in a row. I felt confident in my ability to pace her to her desired finish time. The other runners and spectators were WONDERFUL! She told me she had never heard as much kind, encouraging words from the crowds and other runners as she did here in Indy. That made me very proud!

A beautiful day for a first marathon A beautiful day for a first marathon! We safely navigated our way through the course, with a few interruptions such as a fire truck and an enthusiastic little girl that was running towards us, having no idea that Kristin was blind and could not see her. Kristin was determined and strong and literally never stopped running. We negative split the entire race! The results show that we passed over 1060 runners from the 10k mark to the finish! As I described all the wonderful scenery of the day such as the trees, neighborhoods and all the cheer signs, I could not help but add that I wish she could see us passing all the runners!!

What an accomplishment for both of these incredible ladies! What an accomplishment for both of these incredible ladies! I would tell her every time I could see a mile marker. I warned her at the 25 marker, we would push it and finish the race on nothing but fumes. I knew that she had a strong finish in her. I told her that we were on pace to get at least 15 minutes under the time needed to qualify her for the Boston Marathon. As we approached the 25 marker, I told her it was time to go. I knew she was struggling, she told me her legs hurt and she thought she might throw up! I told her that my legs also hurt and that she could throw up at the finish! At that point, it was silent determination and we ran our fastest mile of the day all the way to the finish line. Both of our families and a ton of friends were waiting and screamed when they saw us coming in so much under the anticipated time. It was an awesome moment! I am so proud of her and I cannot say enough how much I appreciated being her guide. I love running and I am so lucky to be able to give back to someone who is so deserving.

Thanks so much for all you did to make it a great race day for the both of us!!!


Kristin will be running the 2014 Boston Marathon for Team Eye & Ear raising funds for the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. Learn more HERE.

Kristin was recently the subject of "Blind Ambition," a short film produced by Harvard Law Documentary Studios.

Blind Ambition