Thousands of athletes completed the New York City Triathlon yesterday. Six of those athletes hoping to complete the race were blind. According to John Korff, who manages the triathlon, since 2002 each triathlon has seen four to eight blind athletes compete.
Blind triathletes swim the 0.93 miles, bike the 24.8 miles, and run the 6.2 miles with the help of guides who are tethered to either their wrists or their waists. For the swim portion, the guides tug the cords so their blind partners will know which way to head in the disorienting, freezing water. During the running third of the race, the guides are constantly narrating the changes in the road, along with information about the other athletes. As for bicycling, the pair share a tandem bike.
An average triathlete must devote hours to the training, but blind competitors and their guides need that much more training time. For Terry Gardner and guide Sameh Mikhail, the first two hours of training were devoted to simply mounting the tandem bike. There are organizations in place that find ideal guides for blind athletes, taking into account the ability and size of each of the pair.
Said Korff, “The guide is giving that person the gift of the triathlon. This is their sport, but they can’t do it alone.”