Blind and Visually Impaired Runners Take on California International Marathon

VSP® Vision Care Sponsors 4th Annual National Marathon Championship
Colorado Springs, Colo. (November 26, 2012) – In partnership with VSP Vision Care, the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) is pleased to host the 4th Annual USABA National Marathon Championship, which will be held in conjunction with the California International Marathon (CIM) on December 2, 2012 in Sacramento, Calif.
This year, 30 blind or visually impaired runners from around the world will compete, including 15 who will run the full marathon. These numbers far exceed past years and are up from 18 participants in 2011. Runners are representing 10 states, numerous Canadian provinces, China and New Zealand, complementing the global reach the CIM has itself.
Mark Lucas, USABA Executive Director said, “The race organizers, sponsors like VSP Vision Care and Schermer, Bechtold and Roger Eyecare have exceeded all expectations of last year’s race ensuring that USABA athletes had a quality competition and event. We look forward to another outstanding race!”
Richard Hunter, Blinded USMC Veteran stated, “The USABA Marathon Championships is the competition highlight of the year for many athletes as it is a great opportunity to get to know other elite runners with vision loss. With the assistance of over 40 sighted guides, we are able to inspire, educate and change the public’s perception of those with vision loss.”
The runners will meet their guides on December 1 at a pre-race banquet. Most runners and guides will have only a few minutes on the day of the race to synchronize strides and speed. The guide runners, who must be able to run a bit faster than their partners to avoid slowing them down, are responsible for identifying any hazards or changes in course for their partners.
“We are thrilled to support the USABA Marathon Championships and athletes” said Pat McNeil, corporate communications director, VSP Global. “The feedback we have received from our employees who are involved in a variety of capacities, including as guide runners, has been inspiring from a range of experiences both with the USABA organizers as well as with the blind and visually impaired athletes we have the fortune to support.”
Athletes can expect a first class experience and are afforded the opportunity to take part in a pre-race banquet, logistics assistance, pre- and post-race support and awards. The USABA is providing funding to a select number of domestic and international athletes to offset the travel expenses, which has proven to be a barrier of participation in the past.
About the USABA National Marathon Championships
In 2007, a small group of passionate athletes and volunteers helped create the first USABA National Marathon Championship in partnership with the California International Marathon. Today, this event has become one of the premier distance running destinations for runners who are blind and visually impaired. The course provides runners and their guides a very fast, point-to-point, net-downhill marathon with a spectacular finish in front of the California State Capitol. The California International Marathon is certified and sanctioned by USA Track & Field and is a Boston Marathon qualifier and an Olympic Marathon Trials Qualifier.   
USABA’s mission: to enhance the lives of blind and visually impaired people by providing the opportunity for participation in sports and physical activity.  Grant funding for this program is awarded by U.S. Paralympics, a division of the U.S. Olympic Committee, through funding provided sports programming for disabled Veterans and disabled members of the Armed
About VSP Global
VSP Global® includes VSP Vision Care, the largest not-for-profit vision benefits and services company in the United States with 58 million members; Marchon® Eyewear Inc., one of the world’s largest manufacturers, designers and distributors of quality fashion and technologically-advanced eyewear and sunwear; Eyefinity® which offers innovative solutions and the premier management software and technology to improve overall practice management and patient experience; VSP Optics Group, industry leaders in new technologies, production processes, service and logistics. 
To date, through VSP community outreach programs such as VSP Mobile Eyes® and Sight for Students®, and through relationships including those with the American Red Cross and Prevent Blindness America, VSP has invested more than $150 million in free eyecare and eyewear for more than 785,000 adults and children in need throughout the United States.




Jace Duval