Vision-impaired runner prepares for her fifth Missoula Marathon


Vision-impaired runner prepares for her fifth Missoula Marathon

MISSOULA, Mont. - In July 1,500 runners will hit the streets of Missoula for the annual Missoula Marathon. One of those runners, Rhonda Copeland, has an extraordinary story.

Some choose to take it easy on Sundays, and rest all day. Not Copeland.

"Some of my best running has been since I lost some of my vision. I think [that's] because I am losing my vision and realize how precious this freedom for me is ," said Copeland.

Rhonda does 14 miles a day on weekdays. Sundays are for the long runs. She means business. After all the Missoula Marathon is just weeks away. It's not hard for her to be motivated though. She's someone who has overcome many obstacles to become someone known as the 'Vision Runner.'

"Each year, [my eyesight] gets just gets a little bit worse and I've had to give up my driving, had to give up bike riding and a lot of things I really love to do -- you know, photography and beading -- but running was just one things I wasn't willing to give up so I just kept trying to find ways to keep doing it ," said Copeland.

She started going blind in the '90s, due to a genetic disease. She has adapted. She sticks to controlled running paths, wears reflective clothing, and uses a special cane that has a large, round tip to glide over cracks and pebbles.

She ran her first Missoula Marathon after she started going blind. Her first year was a rough one. A record heat wave hit Missoula in 2007, which was the marathon's first year.

"I made the rookie mistake of starting out way too fast -- just hitting that wall, right around 20 miles. I was just so happy that I finished and I told my partner 'I am never doing that again'," said Copeland.

But she did, and now this will be her fifth Missoula Marathon  She hopes others can be inspired by her story. She has faced obstacles in her life, but she hass managed to run right past them.

"I run as fast as my eyes will let me," said Copeland.

Rest, for her, will come after the Missoula Marathon.

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