Blind runner defies all odds by completing NYC half marathon with the help of his three guide dogs
Thomas Panek, a blind runner assisted by a relay team of three guide dogs, made history by completing the New York City Half Marathon without human aid on St. Patrick's Day.
A blind runner defied all odds on Sunday after completing the 2019 United Airlines New York City Half Marathon without any human intervention.
According to Guiding Eyes For The Blind, a charity that trains dogs for the visually impaired, Thomas Panek, 48, ran the race along with three Labrador retrievers Waffles, Westley, and Gus, Daily Mail reports.
Panek, who is the president and CEO of Guiding Eyes for the Blind, made history by becoming the first blind runner to successfully complete the race led by dogs instead of other runners, according to charity running club New York Runners. Their website stated the specially-abled runner finished the 13.1-mile race just under two and a half hours.
The club reported that Panek's pace averaged 10.5 minutes per mile and that each dog ran between three-to-five miles to help the runner achieve the feat.
Gus took on Times Square like a pro during his leg of the #UnitedNYCHalf with our president & CEO, Thomas Panek.— Guiding Eyes (@GuidingEyes) March 18, 2019
Now retired, Gus will live with Thomas & family #GoodBoyGus!
Support our mission to provide exceptional guide dogs at no cost: https://t.co/pG1OTq4gyw
📷: Tim Gorbold pic.twitter.com/AxBEOLaDD8
According to reports, Panek, who lost his sight in his early 20s, had previously finished about 20 races with the aid of human guides. In a conversation with CBS News in 2017, he said, "When I lost my sight I was too scared to run."
After adjusting to being blind, he ran a few races but with human help. "Although many people run with running clubs, at the end of the day you're running your own race," he told the network. "And when you're tied to another person, it's no longer your race. The independence isn't there."
We're giving a #hivefive to the paw-some dogs and @GuidingEyes president and CEO Thomas Panek for finishing the @nyrr #UnitedNYCHalf! Panek's finish; guided by Waffle, Westley, and Gus; went down in NYC Half's history book as the first blind finisher. pic.twitter.com/M3TuS4u6p9— Honey Stinger (@HoneyStinger) March 18, 2019
New York-based charity Guiding Eyes posted a photo on Twitter of Panek smiling broadly after the race while hugging his pet dog Gus. Both posed with their marathon medals around their necks, gleaming with pride.
On St. Patrick's Day, about 20,000 runners completed the famous race as they passed through New York's Times Square. Panek's participation was intended to raise awareness for his Guiding Eyes' mission, "providing guide dogs to people with vision loss." The race raised funds for the Running Guides program, which went toward the training and lifetime vet care of the dogs in the program, according to the organization's website.