This year on St. Patrick’s Day, a dog made history for being the first to join and compete in a marathon as a guide dog. Together with his owner, Thomas Panek, they crossed the finish line.
Thomas had a genetic condition that resulted in losing his eyesight. It’s a condition called retinitis pigmentosa.
Thomas is a runner at heart and being blind did not stop his spirit from continuing on. Instead, he founded a nonprofit organization that aims to help guide dogs help runners like him.
He wanted to help fellow runners who also have sight impairment. The guide dogs will help runners avoid obstacles and be able to navigate through routes.
Thomas has continued to participate in different races in Boston and Chicago but it was New York City’s Half Marathon where he and his dog, Gus, made history. The two trained for months in preparation for this event.
His guide dog, Gus, wasn’t alone in this endeavor. He had help from two fellow guide dogs – Westley and Waffle. They were the first ever canine athletes who registered and competed in this race.
The three dogs took turns with Westley taking the first leg then his sister Waffle taking on the second leg of the race. And for the final, who better than his own guide dog, Gus, to take the final 5K leg with Thomas and finish the race.
Thomas, now CEO of Guiding Eyes for the Blind, recalls that it was almost common sense that the idea struck him in forming the organization. He loves running and so does Gus.
What their story teaches us is that no matter what your disability is, you can still do what you love doing and enjoy doing it. What is your excuse? Whatever it is, don’t even say or think about it because it doesn’t work anymore.
Time to go out and flex those leg muscles. Bring your best buddy with you. Run to stay fit and healthy.
Source: NYRR via Instagram