Eddie Montanez lost his vision as a teenager. But if it weren't for the guide runner at his side, you wouldn't know it from jogging with him.
Every Tuesday and Saturday, Eddie Montanez, a greying marathon runner who is blind, runs around Central Park, starting at 90th Street on the East Side. When he feels a rapid incline and a gentle leftward tug of the rope he holds in one hand, he knows he's hit Harlem Hill. Over the drone of 110th Street and the breathless conversation of his three guides, who volunteer for Achilles International, he hears the familiar voice of another blind athlete. "You got it, Lamar!" Eddie calls out. As usual, Eddie's guides hadn't noticed Lamar until Eddie called his name.
MORE ON RUNNING
At the top of the hill, Eddie's group stops for a guide switch (in blind running lingo, "guide" or "volunteer" refers to the seeing person, and "athlete" refers to the visually impaired person). The logistics of running with a blind person are relatively straightforward: Eddie holds onto one end of a 10-inch rope, and one of the guides holds onto the other. The guide is in charge of telling Eddie when to veer left or right to avoid running into people, when to step down from a curb, or where the button for the water fountain is. Eddie and the guide try to keep their rope-holding arms relatively still—the rope becomes jerkier when the runners are tired. The most astonishing thing about running with Eddie is that you are almost never aware that you are running with a blind person. His blindness recedes at sprinter speed. You report the latest on your apartment search, he talks about his job (IT work for the city government), and another guide admits to dancing on a bar the previous weekend. You only recall that Eddie is blind when bad-tempered bikers yell at you to stay in your path.