Runners brave equinox for a cause
Joshua Fessey / Sun Star
The 53rd annual Equinox Marathon, a 26.2 mile race, during which the participants climbed and descended the 1800 foot path to Ester Dome, was run this Saturday. Matias Saari came in first for the men’s race with a time of 2:52:25 and Erika Burr came in first in the women’s race with a time of 3:24:32.
This mostly off-road trail, filled with gnarled roots and gravel paths, may seem like an impossible task to some, but to others, it’s just another obstacle to be braved.
Brian Switzer not only overcame the grueling race, but he did it while running blind and mostly deaf. A young man from Boston, Switzer has been living his whole life with a little-known affliction called Usher Syndrome.
Usher syndrome is a cureless disorder that causes permanent deafness and blindness in over 400,000 people worldwide. Switzer was born with type 2 Usher syndrome, and was diagnosed at 4 years old. Children with type 2 Usher syndrome are born with moderate to severe hearing loss and normal balance, and vision loss progresses slower than that of those with type 1.
Switzer will be one of many to run in support of the Usher Syndrome Coalition’s campaign to “Own the Equinox.”
Approximately 3 to 6 percent of all children who are deaf and another 3 to 6 percent of children who are hard-of-hearing have Usher syndrome, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communicational Disorders.
Switzer was born mostly deaf, but can communicate verbally with the aid of a hearing aid. He lost the last of his vision just over a year ago. Switzer will run his first full marathon aided by German guide Marco Steffan, who Switzer ran with previously in the Boston Half Marathon.
Switzer finished the marathon with a time of 6:12:32.
Also running the marathon and relay race were members of Team Red, White and Blue, a world-wide veteran’s association designed to keep veterans’ feeling included in the armed forces community.
“Our mission is to keep Veterans included and give them a sense of community,” said member Scoot McGrath, who is currently stationed at
Fort Wainwright. “The highest suicide rates among veterans are those who are being redeployed, followed by those who are placed on reserve. We hope to ease the transition by keeping them connected through activities like walking, helping out the ROTC program, and even this marathon here.”
There are currently over 89,000 people involved with Team RWB, with units spread across the globe. “Basically anywhere the US military has a base, there is a Team RWB unit there too,” said McGrath.
Many of the runners in this year’s race were people who have run the Equinox many times. 56-year-old Paul Reynolds competed in his 18th equinox run on Saturday. Reynolds showed up to the race wearing a jacket with all of the patches he has received from the previous races, including a couple from when UAF was sponsoring the race.
“I’ve been running these races for 20 years,” said Reynolds. “I’m not sure I’ll be going fast, but I’ll make it within the 10 hour mark; I want another patch.”