DeKALB – David Kuhn never imagined he would use the words “fun” and “run” in the same sentence.
He hated running until the sport became an outlet for him.
Kuhn, 60, was a victim of a car crash involving a drunken driver in 1981. He was later diagnosed with staphyloma – a continuous stretching of the retina – from the crash. His doctor told him the end result eventually would be blindness. The news devastated Kuhn.
“I passed out,” he said.
After sitting in his car for several hours as the news sank in, Kuhn came to the conclusion he wasn’t going to let the impairment ruin him.
“I started up my car, went home, and I’ve been living my life this way ever since,” he said.
Over the years, Kuhn’s eyesight has slowly diminished. Today, he is legally blind. But that doesn’t stop him from doing what he’s grown to love.
“Running has become something I do to relax,” he said.
Although he can run by himself along Nelson Road in DeKalb because of its faint white line, he often needs someone to guide him anywhere else.
When Kuhn decided to run the Chicago Marathon in 2011, he acquired a small posse of runners to be his guides.
Bryon Guida, Sarah Garman and Diane Heffernan were just a few of more than 100 local volunteers who signed up to be Kuhn’s guides when he first began running marathons.
“I’m just blown away by how many people offered,” Kuhn said.
During the Chicago Marathon, the trio of guides took turns assisting Kuhn along the route. One of them would hold onto an eight-inch rope with Kuhn holding onto the other end. Another would warn other runners to move aside so Kuhn could get through the pack. At least one member of his guide team ran alongside Kuhn the entire race.
Around the 20-mile mark, Kuhn hit what marathoners call “the wall.” The pain was so intense that he didn’t think he would be able to keep going. But his guides inspired him to persevere.
“[I thought], ‘I’ve got to give it everything I have; these people have been absolutely fantastic,’ ” he said.
Kuhn did just that.
He crossed the finish line with a time of 4 hours and 51 minutes, a pace of just more than 11 minutes a mile, meeting the five-hour qualification time for visually impaired athletes in the Boston Marathon.
Guida, who will travel to Boston with Kuhn to be one of his guides, said he felt Kuhn’s time was a huge accomplishment for all of them.
“The last two years that’s been our goal to help David qualify [for Boston],” he said.
Guida has been running for the past three years, and said Kuhn motivates him to keep pursuing the sport.
“If I was just doing it for myself, I might not want to continue,” he said. “I stuck with it and we both persevered together. Since then, we’ve just kind of sweat it out side by side.”
Kuhn is looking forward to Monday’s marathon and said he owes his running successes to Guida and the other guides who have helped him over the years.
“I can’t do this without my guides,” he said. “They are everything.”
Boston Marathon facts
What: 26.2 mile course through Boston and eight other cities and towns
Where to watch: Universal Sports Network or online at watchlive.baa.org beginning at 8:30 a.m.
• More than 21,500 runners participated in 2012
• Hosts more than 1,100 media members from 250 outlets around the world each year
• Second largest single-day on-site media coverage for a sporting event, behind the Super Bowl
• About 500,000 spectators line the route
• 31 charities raised more than $11 million through the marathon in 2012