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Visual impairment no impediment to marathon dreams

Like many people, Ashley had made a bucket list of things she'd like to do. Among those items was "running a marathon before she turned 30."After her father underwent multiple surgeries, Ashley found that running had become a way to release fear and anxiety and make connections with other runners. In a moment of courage, she and her friend Kayla signed up for Cincinnati's 2017 Flying Pig marathon.

While Ashley has Retinitis Pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease, she didn't let her vision challenges hamper her goals. She successfully fundraised for Race for a Cure for the Foundation Fighting Blindness, raising over $3,000 as she prepared for the Flying Pig Marathon.Because she'd poured herself into her training, most of it went well-despite harsh winter and spring weather conditions in Illinois and Wisconsin, where she did a chunk of her training while her dad was receiving treatment.

Ashley was ready on race day. With some minor nerves, she met her visually impaired

running guide, Jen. Ashley had made signs for herself-"Visually Impaired Runner"-and for Jen-"Visually Impaired Guide." Together with some friends, they started the race. Ashley had never raced more than a half marathon: "By mile 13, I was thinking how different it was that I was still running and not just done with the race like when I did half marathons. I was also proud of myself for how far I had come in being more open about my eye disease and advocating for myself. I was glad I had gotten a guide." As her guide and companion, Jen talked Ashley through a few rough miles, energizing and urging her to the finish.

With still more friends cheering her on, Ashley crossed the finish line in a time that made her proud. She's looking forward to many future races and maybe even another marathon someday! She encourages other runners to consider becoming guides for the visually impaired to help them reach their goals.

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