Eugene, Ore. -- About five minutes before the official start of the Eugene Marathon, 38 year old Anthony Atiles and his dog Giselle were already on the course. One of the only visually impaired runners in the race, Atiles went off early, with the aim of finishing his first ever half marathon, Giselle, his guide dog and Sonia, his human guide walking alongside.
"I was born actually, totally blind," Atiles explains. "...And I had several surgeries up to 6 months old and they were able to restore some vision."
His partner Eric, and their friend Christine Dambach, have both walked the half marathon for the last five years. In 2019, they got Tony involved.
"Last year I was like 'we've really done the course several times, you can do it easily'", Eric mentions. "And it took a little bit of convincing to get him to agree to it, but got him talked into it."
"We've been training for a couple of months, and we've been going on walks about 3 or 4 times a week, at least four or five miles each time," says Tony.
"He walks really fast," says Christine, who is also Eric and Tony's insurance agent. "The first couple of times we walked with him, I thought wow, this guy has an amazing pace going and that was cool."
Practice walks with Giselle and Eric led to race day, where Tony aimed to walk his first half-marathon ever.
"Of course the beginning was pretty easy," Tony jokes. "Then about probably mile six I started feeling a little sore and tired but just kept going and was able to get some coffee and just kind of get that second wind."
The coffee provided by their friends Deborah and Leslie, who have made a tradition out of this little marathon pit stop.
"To me, it really shows that they take an interest in pride in what other people do and they're willing to be out there making us feel better about what we're doing," Eric says. "It shows he can do a lot more than he thinks he can , it shows that if he's determined he can make it work and overcome the obstacles."
Right around noon, Tony and his friends earned their Eugene Marathon medals, even bestowing one on Giselle too.
"It was just amazing, I just can't believe that it was my first half marathon and I plan to do many more," says Tony. "I'm just speechless, really."
Tony and Giselle will be out walking, marathon or no, and even if he can't quite see the road in front of him, his vision of crossing more finish lines is crystal clear.
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