September 4, 2013 – By Sheri Lamb
PRINCE GEORGE CITIZEN – He’s competed internationally as a middle-distance runner but now Geoff Martinson is tackling a new challenge.
The 27-year-old, who finished third in the men’s 1,500m race at the Canadian Olympic trials but didn’t meet the Canadian standard to compete at the 2012 Games in London, will run his first full marathon on Oct. 13 at the Good Life Fitness Victoria Marathon. But the 42 kilometres wasn’t enough of a challenge for Martinson so he agreed to guide a visually impaired elite runner from the United States attempting to earn a medal.
“That’s a long way to go for a guy who usually runs four-minute races,” said Martinson. “Going and running for almost three hours is a big difference, but it’s so neat to be able to help someone out. I’d like to think maybe I can help her medal out of the females in the overall and if we run well I’ll end up being top 10 for the guys.”
Martinson will guide Amy McDonaugh, a mother of three from Irmo, South Carolina and a veteran of many marathons, including the 2013 Boston Marathon. McDonaugh’s best marathon time is two hours, 49 minutes and 28 seconds (2:49.28), which she clocked in 2011 at the California International Marathon.
When he was first approached about attempting to run the marathon, Martinson declined, not interested in running a three-hour race, but when the elite coordinator for the Victoria marathon contacted him about a month ago with the proposal of acting as a guide, Martinson changed his tune.
So far the only contact between Martinson and McDonaugh has come via email, but they’ll get together to map out a race strategy when she arrives in Victoria prior to the race.
In Victoria, Martinson will run alongside McDonaugh and guide her around potholes and let her know when a turn is coming up or if other runners are ahead of her.
Martinson said he’s a bit nervous, knowing she’s an elite athlete looking to try and win, but he’s done several half marathons in the last year and his fitness is good.
McDonaugh likely won’t have to worry about out pacing Martinson, but she’ll be ready if something goes wrong. She runs alone at home in South Carolina and during the Boston Marathon the guide she was supposed to run the first 10 kilometres with bailed after four kilometres because she was too fast for him, according to a June 11 article by David Block on the Runner’s World website. McDonaugh had no problems running the final six kilometres alone until meeting up with her next guide. She finished the Boston Marathon in 2:52.05 and plans to return in 2014.
McDonaugh is totally blind in her right eye and has limited vision in her left eye. To understand how McDonaugh sees, place an empty paper towel roll up to your left eye and cover your right eye with your hand.
For the first 10 years of her life, McDonaugh had 20/20 vision and a normal life, but a trip to the dentist changed her future forever. According to Block’s article, the dentists found she had an abnormal tangle of blood vessels in her right cheek, which caused a lot of bleeding. Doctors gave her shots of alcohol and silicone in her cheek, but that made the situation worse, as the liquid travelled, tearing nerves in her tongue and and eyes. She underwent 18 surgeries in the next 18 months.
McDonaugh took up running nine years ago after the birth of her third child to help her cope with being overweight and depressed. She won several races in South Carolina and the publicity drew the attention of the United States Association of Blind Athletes, who invited her to compete with other top runners.