Athlete is U.S. defending
champion at 5,000 meters
STANFORD — Marla Runyan, the legally blind Olympian and defending U.S. champion at 5,000 meters, will make her debut in the marathon this fall in New York.
Runyan announced Thursday that she plans to compete in the New York City Marathon on Nov. 3.
“Since the Olympic Games, I just run now for the pure enjoyment of the sport,” she said. “A lot of the pressure has been lifted, and I can really enjoy this time in my life and pursue all the dreams I have, to do the things I want to accomplish before my running career is over.”
One of those goals for the 33-year-old has been to compete in a marathon.
“This is my first marathon, but it won’t be my last,” she said.
Runyan said she chose New York because the New York Road Runners made it clear they wanted her and would do what they could to help her special needs.
Runyan has run three road races this year, including the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler in April. The biggest problem, she said, is not being able to know her splits on a road race. Although she has some vision, she cannot read her own watch without stopping and using a magnifying glass, and she can’t see the clock on the course.
At New York, she may have people stationed along the course to shout out her times. Her goal is to run 2 hours, 28 minutes, or at least break 2:30.
Runyan said she believes that her vision difficulties won’t be a serious hindrance, and in some ways a marathon will be easier than running a race on a track.
“I’m going to be running with a smaller group of elite women. There’s not going to be masses and masses of people, so I don’t think there’s going to be a problem,” she said. “Also, in terms of the road situation, there’s more room and you don’t have to worry about someone cutting into lane one and that sort of thing. And I’m always going to have that blue line to follow.”
She hopes to run a half-marathon in preparation, possibly in Philadelphia in early September.
While she is curious to test the marathon, she intends to try to make it to the Athens Olympics as a track runner. At the 2000 Sydney Games, she was the first legally blind athlete to compete in an Olympics for the United States.
Runyan plans to compete in Europe until late July, then will return to her Eugene, Ore., home for her Aug. 4 wedding. She will marry Adam Lonergan, who also is her coach and trainer.
They will honeymoon in the Oregon mountains, looking for a good place to train, she said.