NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

April 15, 2013

Running through it blind

Newburyport native plans to complete marathon for vision-impaired

By Dan Guttenplan
Sports Editor

---- — NEWBURYPORT — Erin Connors plans to run the Boston Marathon today without looking at a single spectator along the 26.2-mile course.

That’s because the Newburyport native will run blindfolded in support of the National Braille Press, a cause for which she has raised close to $6,000. Connors was inspired to run the marathon blindfolded after competing in the Blindfold Challenge 5K last April. She attended the marathon the next day as a spectator and vowed to run the entire 26.2 miles blindfolded this year.

“I went and watched the marathon, and it was such a powerful day,” Connors said. “I called up my trainer the next day, and said I need to sign up for team National Braille Press. I can’t miss that day again. It’s too cool to be on the sidelines.”

Connors, 25, ran the Boston Marathon for the first time in 2011 with her sister, Meghan, 27. Erin Connors has quite the athletic background as a hockey player at The Governor’s Academy and Brown University. Since college, she has worked as a research assistant at the Mass. Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston. She researches assistance technology for the blind community.

Connors, who is now living in Somerville, will have three guides throughout the course of the race. Each will take a section of the race with Connors, guiding her with a 2-foot tether to ensure she navigates the course in a safe manner. Her sister, Meghan, will serve as her third guide, meeting her at Mile 20.

“My family will be at different locations throughout the course,” Connors said. “It will be really special to run it with my sister since we did it together in 2011.”

Connors, who logged 20 miles on her longest training run, did much of her training without a blindfold since she did not have access to guides on a regular basis. However, she did complete some of her longer runs with guides, even going through a dry run of a large chunk of the marathon course in recent weeks.

“It can be pretty scary to be blindfolded for the first five or 10 minutes,” Connors said. “You have to get your feet underneath you so you feel confident with a guide. I did something training runs on the course, I did Heartbreak Hill to simulate the race.”

Connors said her goal is to finish and “get there in one piece.”