Last Monday, tragedy struck our country. But despite that tragedy, we should celebrate the thousands of runners that participated in the Boston Marathon, including the 40 visually impaired runners. One of those runners was William Greer who had the honor of being guided by NPR’s host of “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me,” Peter Sagal. I had the opportunity to get Peter’s perspective on being a sighted guide for the first time.
Q: How did you get started as a sighted guide and what inspired you to do it?
A: Honestly, it was just because I was asked by Team with a Vision, the charity that was organizing fundraising runners for the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired. The invite came at a good time for me–I wanted to run Boston this year, but hadn’t done anything to arrange it. And moreover, I really wanted to try something different for my 10th marathon than just run that distance again for my own purposes. Helping somebody else do it seemed like a great solution to my lack of motivation.
Q: What are some of the challenges of being a sighted guide and how did you adapt to overcome those challenges?
A: Very few. For one thing, William Greer, my “guidee,” is a very self-reliant, capable man, and has run 6 marathons prior without a guide. He has very limited vision, but was able to manage a lot–such as avoiding runners in front of him–without my help. He also is a great runner and a fine fellow, a good companion for 26 miles and change. I really enjoyed every minute of it.
The only “challenge,” if it was one, was a sense of responsibility for him. It’s one thing to screw up your own race, but another to screw up somebody else’s. But as I said, William was so capable and self-possessed, I realized very early on it would be more pleasure than duty. At the end of the race, as the bomb went off, and William was feeling tired from his effort, I felt that sense of duty more, to see him to safety, but again, he helped make it very easy to help him.
Q: Do you plan to offer to be a guide to another runner in the future?
A: I’d love to. It really was the most enjoyable race I’ve ever run. I’d be happy to help William again, or take on the challenge of guiding someone who is completely blind.
Q: How has your role as a sighted guide changed your perception about the blind community?
A: Well, it’s hard to say. I think it’s a mistake to take any one example of any “community” as a stand in for the whole. William is a guy who has triumphed over an accident that could have and almost did kill him, and has accomplished things–like seven marathons, and qualifying for Boston–that most sighted people couldn’t dream of. I don’t think that has anything to do with him being visually impaired; I think it has to do with his character. I’m sure there are other brave, motivated people in the blind community, and I’m sure there are some jerks. Not that I’ve met any, yet… I will say this: anybody who might think that being blind or visually impaired keeps you from leading a rich full life should meet William.
To read more about Peter’s experience, please follow this link: http://www.runnersworld.com/races/peter-sagal-eyewitness-bravery-horror