Blindness doesn't stop Vergas man from running marathons
Three and a half years ago, Bruce Stoddard ran in the Fargo Half Marathon, one of the many races he had run in. Then six months later, after a car accident, he lost his eyesight. But, he still continues to run half marathons -- with a little guiding help.
"Live today." That's his motto, proving he can live as best he possibly can.
The 50-year-old Vergas man ran the 10-mile race at Water Carnival, a 10k at Barnesville's Potato Days and plans to register for the half marathon at the Dick Beardsley next weekend.
He does the majority of his training on a treadmill, although he'd like to run with the running club in Detroit Lakes. But, timing and getting drivers is a challenge.
"For me, it's a slow process, not getting contacts," he said.
But, Stoddard said he knew there would be a Beardsley race coming up, so he contacted the Chamber about finding a running guide. The Chamber put him in touch with Kim Bettcher at the Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center who serves as one of the organizers. Bettcher, in turn, put him in contact with her co-worker Kesley Myhre.
Myhre, who had never guided anyone before, said she'd give it a shot if no one else was interested. So, at this year's Northwest Water Carnival 10-mile run, they ran together, with Myhre guiding Stoddard.
The only time they practiced was the day before the Water Carnival run, when WDAY came to Detroit Lakes to film a segment on Stoddard. Myhre said they ran about a quarter of a mile that day, and then the day of the race, "we were kind of winging it."
"It's fairly easy to do," she said of guiding Stoddard. "It's basically just keeping an eye out for any obstacles that you might encounter and verbalizing that."
The way it works is Stoddard holds onto one side of a shoestring tied in a circle, and the guide holds the other side of the circle.
If there is any variance in the road, or they are about to turn a corner or hill, she'd relay that to Stoddard. Otherwise, he can feel the shoestring moving and can respond to however Myhre is pulling.
"I just tried to follow him," Myhre said. "I kind of knew what pace he wanted to run, so he set the pace and I just followed along with him."
Myhre said she would definitely run races with Stoddard again, but the Beardsley race won't be one of them. She has to cheer on those that have been in her training group, and cheer on Stoddard, of course.
Instead, he will be running in the Beardsley with an old classmate's daughter, Laura Anderson, from Barnesville, who also ran with him in the Barnesville 10k last weekend.
Before losing his eyesight, Stoddard ran half marathons in under two hours. That's his goal now that he uses a guide, only coming in about 10 minutes behind that mark.
Stoddard lost his eyesight three years ago after a car accident that also took his friend's life. He said there wasn't drinking involved, but that he also doesn't know exactly what happened either.
On the way back from seeing property his friend was about to purchase, the car left the road.
"What I was told, and I just recently found this out, it was a foggy summer evening and it could have been that he didn't see... There's a variety of scenarios and I don't know why we went off the road."
He was found six hours later and eventually flown to a Fargo hospital, where he started to regain his eyesight after three days. After some possible missteps by the treating doctor, Stoddard lost his eyesight permanently.
Although he tried to file a medical malpractice suit against the doctor, he couldn't find a lawyer to take the case, he said.
Once out of the hospital and back home, Stoddard said he went through a stint of depression, but has overcome that. A center for the blind in Colorado helped with that immensely.
He spent time at the clinic downhill skiing, cross-country skiing and running.
"I was pretty fortunate because I found a group called the Achilles' Running Club there. I thought 'hell, I'll go give it a try,'" he said. "They instructed me on how to run (with a guide)."
Not only is running with a guide helping Stoddard, it helps his guides as well.
"It's a different experience running a race and just really being aware of what's going on around you," Myhre said. "Normally, I run and get kind of in a zone. I notice people along the route and that kind of thing, but otherwise you're so tuned to what you're doing you don't pay much attention.
"It's really rewarding, too. To think that he has this challenge that he's overcoming to run, and he loves running that much that he's willing to still do it, I think is wonderful."