David Kuhn knew he couldn’t drive.
He was too emotional, too overwhelmed. He didn’t want to put others at risk by putting his car in gear. So he sat for hours, mulling over the news an optometrist had just given him: His retinas had stretched after an accident months earlier, when a drunk driver crashed into his truck. The damage to his eyes was irreversible. He was going to progressively go blind.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Kuhn recalls nearly 33 years later. “I was stale.”
Night came. Kuhn watched as patients, doctors and nurses left the building and drove off. His car was the only one left in the parking lot when he decided that his life was just like the games of poker he’d played with his brother and friends.
“You’ve been dealt good hands, and you’ve been dealt bad hands. You’ve won with both, and you’ve lost with both,” he thought to himself. “You’ll just have to play this hand the best you can.”
Today, Kuhn, now 61, is almost completely blind. But he doesn’t spend hours mourning his lost eyesight anymore. He spends hours — a lot of hours — running in DeKalb, Ill., where he lives. He has to. Because he’s training to make an 11,000-mile or more run around the perimeter of the U.S., to raise money for his 11-year-old granddaughter, Kylie, who has cystic fibrosis.
“I’ve been thinking about this run for about two years,” Kuhn says. “When Kylie’s condition worsened, I thought, ‘This is it. It’s time to finally do it.’”
In a few weeks, Kuhn plans to start the trek in Seattle, then cross Washington State and continue on — he hasn’t worked out everything yet. His goal is to hit each “corner” of the country — Bangor, Maine, Jacksonville, Fla., San Diego, and back to Seattle. Ideally, as his story gets out, he’ll find places to stay along the way — fellow runners or supporters to offer him a place to stay. The best option would be to find a person or group on route who has a caravan. Then, of course, he needs to find more running guides — people who will run with him each day for stretches of the trip, directing him with a rope that he loops around his left thumb.
“Tethered running is not as difficult or weird as it sounds,” Kuhn says. “My 5-year-old grandson was one of my first guides.”
When he signs up for a run — he just completed the 2014 Boston Marathon — Kuhn’s always surprised by how many people offer to guide him.
“I guess I inspire people, but I don’t think I’m inspiring,” Kuhn says. “I’m the one that’s inspired by my guides. It’s difficult enough to run a race like that alone, but to be thinking about me while pushing through is incredible.”
As he prepares for his round-the-country run, the grandfather of four often thinks about how his blindness has actually become a blessing.
“I see the best side of humanity all the time, people who are there for people with disabilities, who support someone who’s just trying to improve themselves or face a challenge,” Kuhn says.
He misses his eyesight, of course. But if an optometrist told him tomorrow that a new technology or surgery could make him see again, Kuhn would say, “Let’s hold off for a little.” He has a few more cards he’d like to blindly play.
“There are still some things I want to experience without my sight. I want to do this run. I want to complete an Ironman,” he says. “Then, after those things, maybe we could talk about it.”
You can follow Kuhn’s journey on Facebook, Twitter and his personal blog.
You can also make a donation to directly finance Kuhn’s run or to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
h/t Runners World
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