Last year, Kyle Robidoux ran the Boston Marathon twice.
The Double Boston, as its come to be called, is exactly what it sounds like. Runners arrive early to the finish line on Boylston Street and backtrack to the start in Hopkinton, then turn right back around and run the full 26.2 miles in the traditional direction toward Boston.
Normally, this is a monumental feat for even the most seasoned runners. Robidoux, an ultramarathoner who completed two 100-mile races in 2017, faces an additional obstacle every time he hits the pavement – he is legally blind.
This year, Robidoux will be running his fifth consecutive Boston Marathon with Team With A Vision, the fundraising arm of the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, where Robidoux is also the Director of Volunteer and Support Group Services.
Team With A Vision, celebrating 25 years this year, raises funds to support the Association’s statewide network of vision rehabilitation services, supporting more than 1,400 individuals every year. The Team brings together runners from all over the world, visually impaired or not, along with sighted guides to help them safely navigate their courses.
“Before [working at] MABVI, I had never heard of sighted guides,” says Robidoux. “I ran by myself and used to trip and fall and run into people during races and training runs. Now I have a network of six to eight guides through MABVI’s volunteer program. I can now run safely and to my greatest potential.”
Robidoux’s guide for the second half of the Marathon is Cory Gardner, a South End resident and a second-time Marathon runner.
“I never would have run the marathon if I hadn’t been involved with Team With a Vision,” says Gardner. “I’m more of a half marathon enthusiast, and the idea of a full really scared me. With the encouragement of the Team With A Vision athletes, I started to believe in myself and decided I had to do it.”
After Robidoux runs the first half with another guide, Gardner will join him at the 20k mark in Wellesley and continue to the finish line. Gardner and Robidoux were matched in 2015 through United In Stride, a database that connects guides and visually impaired runners, and Robidoux trained Gardner as a guide through the fall.
“Running with an accomplished marathoner like Kyle is one of the most amazing experiences ever,” says Gardner. “Since I’ve started running with him he’s started running ultramarathons. I can’t even imagine being able to do an ultra. His training ethic is amazing. We’ve been running together for almost two and a half years.”
“Cory is an amazing guide and now a great friend,” says Robidoux. “By sharing his sight as a volunteer guide I am able to train for all of my races. He inspired me to be a better runner and person.”
In addition to celebrating 25 years of service to blind and visually impaired runners, Team With A Vision has also been chosen by the Boston Athletic Association as an Official Charity for the Boston Marathon. The main goal of the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually impaired is to create opportunities and smash the barriers associated with limited vision. Robidoux is just one example of many that Team With A Vision is continually providing those opportunities to its runners and its guides.
“I run to stay healthy and active. I run to challenge myself. I run to show my daughter that anything is possible as long as you train. Boston is my hometown race, so it is a wonderful day for the running community and city,” says Robidoux.
If you are interested in volunteering as a guide, visit MABVI.org/volunteer or UnitedInStride.com.
Image: Kyle and his guide Cory.