Tag: Randy

16 Jul 16

By Randy Pierce

July Weather has Autumn and me facing 90-degree temperatures for many consecutive days which would mean one hot dog if I wasn’t prepared to take some precautions. While a hot dog may be a fundamental part of America’s summer pursuits, it isn’t a good idea for the Dog Guides or any of our dogs… “frankly!”

Autumn in her harness with her collapsible bowl. In planning my schedule I try to ensure it involves as little time as possible on hot pavement during the prime time heat hours. If this means I have to make extra arrangements for cabs, Uber, Lyft or friends then so be it because my girl’s health is my responsibility. As a shocking example, when air temperatures are at 77, pavement in the sun has measured as high as 125! Rising into the 90 range and we are at risk of burning the paws even for short distances.

She still wants and needs her work and I still have my obligations to attend which means that I supplement the schedule adjustments with some other simple precautions. While dogs do not sweat for their cooling system in the same way our bodies respond, it’s imperative to ensure they have plenty of water. I keep her collapsible bowl on the harness and give her frequent water stops *with* accompanying extra opportunities to relieve herself. That same water that supplies her system can be used to soak her paws and help her keep cool and protected for any short distances on pavement although I still attempt to avoid it and particularly avoid the sunny portions.

Autumn drinking out of her collapsible bowl on a hot day.Ultimately I get her opportunities to work early in the morning before the heat of the day and late evening if it cools sufficiently. I evaluate whether it is unreasonable timing for her during the day and consider allowing her to stay home in the AC while I use my cane if I absolutely must travel outside at the worst times.

Being attentive and aware is the first step but it’s not enough. We all should make the choice to ensure our canine friends are kept safe from the dangers the hot summer sun can present!


9 Jul 16

By Randy Pierce

I had heard an old college friend was facing a challenge as his adult son was battling a particularly difficult form of cancer. A silent and stoic type from my recollections, the friend wasn’t reaching out very far and so when an anonymous but connected outreach came to me I was all to eager to lend help. It is often those who reach out the least who may need the support the most.

What I believe here, however, is that there is some healing in taking action. He took the action to ride the Pan Mass Challenge and to reach out and I’d like to share his outreach with all of you. Cancer is such an ugly challenge and there are so many worthy causes I urge you to consider that if this one can resonate for you.

Please support Jeff and Mitch.

Their blog post is reprinted below:


Like almost everyone, cancer has touched my family. A cousin, uncle, and grandfather succumbed to this disease.  Other family members have been diagnosed and cured.  The disease is so pervasive they say if you live long enough everyone will eventually get it.

A year ago, my son Mitch was diagnosed with a rare form of soft tissue cancer at the age of 20. He has battled like a champion through aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatments for a year and his fight will continue on until a cure is found.

I try to imagine the pain, fear, and anxiety felt by cancer patients every day, but it’s not possible.  Over the past year, we have met so many skilled and compassionate caregivers and witnessed first-hand the quality of care and effectiveness of available treatments.  Let’s help them continue to provide the best possible care, fund innovative research, and improve the prognosis of all afflicted with this horrible disease.

The Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC) is a bike-a-thon that today raises more money for charity than any other single athletic fundraising event in the country.  It is a two-day, 192 mile ride from Sturbridge to Provincetown, Mass.  The endurance required by the challenge is only a metaphor for that which is required by a cancer patient’s body and mind to fight the disease.  All of the proceeds go to support cancer research through the Dana-Farber cancer institute.

If not for Mitch, for someone effected who is close to you – Ride with me or support the battle by sponsoring my ride at http://profile.pmc.org/JL0432

See the original post here.


2 Jul 16

By Randy Pierce

It was July 4, 2010 and we were sitting on boulders outside Lake of the Clouds on Mt. Washington. This was our first official climb of the 2020 Vision Quest and I was certainly feeling a little independence celebration. Our weary crew was discussing the days trials and tribulations when the first bursts of color set my imagination soaring. Perched atop this pillar of New England those of us with sight could see all of New Hampshire, much of Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont and even places beyond. As the various townships began launching their fireworks into the night sky below us, the notion was astounding within my mind. What a glorious way to celebrate in full festive fashion as fireworks feel to me, the exuberance of our accomplishment on this day and in a much grander way our country’s pursuit of freedom.

Kat Alix-Gaudreau created two film shorts for the experience which are well worth revisiting for the anniversary of our inaugural hike. While I’ll always treasure the team of Quinn, Tracy, Kara, Carrie, Jenifer, Ben, Cliff, Kat, and Jessie as well as our voluminous learning experiences upon that journey. I think the messages stand powerfully still today in both versions of her film productions:

Blind Ambition – Independence Day 2010 Climb of Mt Washington – (4-min. preview)

Blind to Failure – Independence Day 2010 Climb of Mt Washington – (17 mins.)

One finally amusing reality to close out this patriotic reflection. I shared the story of the fireworks in much more vivid and vibrant description at several presentations. In my mind’s eye, we were witnessing the Esplanade Finale happening all over New England again and again from our lofty perch. It was a few weeks before my wife shared the truth of it with me.

Because our distance from those towns was often so great, they were occasionally just little dots of color in the distance and not nearly the spectacle my imagination had created. Tracy was initially concerned I would be disappointed by this revelation. Ultimately I think it is ironic but telling that sometimes the blind man has the better “sight” of a situation thanks to the power of imagination.

Happy 4th of July, everyone! I’m proud to celebrate the independence I feel in my life personally and in my country where I consider myself so very fortunate to live.


25 Jun 16

By Randy Pierce

Take me directly to the Seventh Annual Peak Potential Page – I am Coming to the Event!

Lively participation in our live auction at Peak Potential 2015.

Lively participation in our live auction at Peak Potential 2015.

On July 12, the price goes up for a table of 8 to join us at our 7th Annual Peak Potential Dinner and Auction. But there’s still enough time for many of you to take advantage of our best rate by putting together a table of 8 friends and buying a table together. Until July 12, the price for a table is just $500, which breaks down to $62.50 per person. (The table price goes up to $600 after that, and individual tickets are always $100 per person.) We invite you to join us at the Courtyard Marriott in Nashua, our largest and finest venue yet, which we hope will be our home for the foreseeable future.

Your kind choice will help us continue the mission that our all-volunteer staff, myself included, work incredibly hard to provide throughout the year. You become part of the positive change in the lives of the more than 50,000 students we have reached in our school visits as well as thousands more outside of the school programs. Meanwhile, we expect to reach significant landmark donations to each of the worthy organizations we support, Guiding Eyes for the Blind and the New Hampshire Association for the Blind. All of the work we accomplish comes from the community of support we’ve built and the vast majority at this event each year.

You may of course purchase individual tickets or paired tickets at any time and tables will still be available until they sell out (we hope once again!). By choosing to purchase a table earlier, you will save a little–which we encourage you to use on the auction or to help entice you to bring friends with you to experience our signature event. Help us ensure it is a complete success by getting on board early. The event isn’t until November 12, but our planning is fully under way and the more tables sold in advance the easier it becomes for us to bring on more sponsors, donors, and features to this marquis event.

I truly hope to see you there and commit to providing a few worthy surprises on the night of the event!


11 Jun 16

By Randy Pierce

Randy speaks in front of the McGreal centerSeveral hundred people descended upon the McGreal Sight Center for the NH Association for the Blind’s 13th annual Walk for Sight on Saturday, June 5, 2016. 2020 Vision Quest was represented by a team of 20 walkers who raised over our goal of $2,020 for the event.

One highlight this year was NHAB’s “Walk in My Shoes” program. Several fully sighted walkers chose to work with a Mobility Trainer from the Association to experience what it is like to travel with sight impairment. A little instruction and the use of sight simulators for glaucoma, macular degeneration, and several other common sight disorders, including a blindfold for the fully blind experience, enabled these walkers to truly understand some of the challenges faced by those served regularly by NHAB.

"Walk in My Shoes" - sighted people guiding people with blindfolds to mimic the experience of blindness.Since our team had a collection of children on the team, they wanted to experience a form of this and with their parents helped it to take place. I was able to walk amidst them with Autumn guiding me. Listening to their excitement and observations made me appreciate the enthusiasm of youth as well as their candor. Our version only involved closing their eyes so we didn’t get the sight restriction from them, but I did hear from several that trying to use limited sight was almost more strain in concentration.

For us the first and most common concept for them to experience was the trust in their sighted guide. It wasn’t reasonable to have them train for cane or dog but sighted guide is a common method for a sighted person to help with simple guidelines (no pun intended) to lead them along our city route amongst the crowd of fellow walkers. All seemed to become very aware of the ground on which they walked which they formerly took for granted. Each crack in the sidewalk, curb, sewer grate and even patch of sand became a little more noticeable for the potential hazard it represented.

While I expect at 6’4″ of height I may need to duck at times, it was surprising how many shrubs had our shorter team members ducking – even Tracy at her towering 4’11″ (and ¾”!!).

A final observation which I find quite true but was surprised to have noted by one of our youths was how much their awareness shrank to a smaller group than they were used to. Eyes allow you to understand what’s happening at a distance and in the noisy environment the world reduced to just a couple of close-by people and the concentration to manage the terrain.

The day was beautiful with many laughs as we relaxed together to celebrate helping a good cause while spending time together. I hope that next year we again assemble an even larger team to either experience a little walk in my shoes or help us support both our charity, 2020 Vision Quest, and the New Hampshire Association for the Blind! Thank you again to all those who joined us, all our many donators and especially to those who delved a little deeper this year!


5 Jun 16

By Randy Pierce

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
– Søren Kierkegaard

Man in a canoe at sunsetOn June 9, 2016 I’ll reach my 50th Birthday and accordingly a half-century of reflections. One aspect of these involves thinking of myself as a fully sighted person who became legally and eventually completely blind. Knowing my fully sighted years ended roughly on my 22nd birthday, this suggests the majority of my life has now occurred while under the label of blindness.

Yet I do not think of myself as a blind person who was once sighted. I could write a book on reflections of my life and in fact I am in the process of that very thing. Presently I am simply reflecting on a small portion of my self image regarding my blindness.

I am not a blind person but rather a person who happens to also be blind. That definition is sufficiently comfortable for me that I find no offense in those who express it differently. While it is a rare day my blindness doesn’t cause some form of minor frustration in my life, it simply does not feel like a defining feature for me. I’m similarly a person who is tall and while getting into a compact car or shopping for pants  may result in some challenge, I do not dwell negatively upon my height. Simply the realities of my blindness have resulted in my making some adjustments and accommodations to how I approach my days.

Yet the many years of having chosen this path effectively hides those changes from my common consideration. Why then do I not identify more strongly with the blindness as a part of myself in these reflections? It could be that first impressions are often more lasting. It could be that I feel so normally and conventionally invested into the world that it takes a purposeful reflection to realize. Either way, as I cross this landmark birthday, I suspect I will finally escape from an inaccurate and all too common statement in which I’ve often suggested, “I’ve been fully sighted most of my life.” I’ve now been blind most of my life and while I still would love to see someday, hope to see someday, and perhaps will see again someday, I’m very happy with my vision of who I am regardless of sight.


14 May 16

By Randy Pierce

A Walk in Autumn's Shoes?While Guiding Eyes trainers and puppy raisers deserve the vast majority of the credit for the quality training in my dog guides, the continued success is based on their helping guide me to methods of ongoing training work together. Their work in teaching me how to continually sustain and advance our training is why I believe I have generally very good success in my teamwork with these dogs. People often see the results and ask me for tips and tricks to help work with their dogs and I’m happy to share a few of my opinions with the above caveat that others have created an excellent foundation for me.

One of the first and most easy reminders is to be steady and consistent with our dogs. This consistency helps prevent any confusion on their part for what we want and expect. I use repetition and consistency to help strengthen the base skills regularly.

Unfortunately for Autumn (and me!), my recent medical challenges have caused a change in many of our routines presently. Understanding that this change has an impact on Autumn is an important part of my ability to manage the response. For all the humor of poor Autumn wearing my size 14 running shoes, the reality is the old adage has value in all of our training work. I want to take a walk in Autumn’s shoes to try and understand what a change may mean for her. Dogs are not humans and do not mirror our thought processes. We can, however, with a little investigation come to better understand their motivations and responses, effectively learning to think a little as they might be thinking.

My doctors have suggested I not walk anywhere outside my home without another person present. This means that my daily longer walks with Autumn have come to an abrupt halt. It’s easy for me to be caught up in my own frustrations with this and fail to realize the impact on Autumn. She is accustomed to getting a higher level of exercise for her body and her mind given how much she is asked to problem solve while we are working together. As such, I need to find positive outlets for her to replace those aspects or I may find her problem solving less ideal solutions of her own. Many dogs exhibit what we deem as destructive behavior when they do not get sufficient outlet for their energy. Understanding this as the underlying cause can lead us to the solution rather than getting caught up in the symptom of the undesired behavior. There are many ways to approach solutions and the real key begins with the awareness which is the core message of this blog. Learn to take a walk in your dog’s paws and you are on the path to building a better training foundation.

In my case I try to schedule people to visit for those walks as one step. I’ve increased her backyard high energy play sessions and I’ve increased our hide and seek games to help her use her problem solving and thinking approach which is lacking. While she loves all of these things, I’ve also noticed that she’s a little more attention-desiring (needy) of me. I understand the reasons for that outreach and am reassuring her with an appreciation for the reason behind her changes. So if you notice an undesired behavior or change in your dog, perhaps ask yourself what changes you may have caused for them, whether intended or inadvertent. Perhaps that may help you grow your own training skills.

Ever the opportunist, why not “take a walk in our shoes” by joining us at the NHAB Walk for Sight coming right up! We’d love to have you on our team.


7 May 16

By Randy Pierce

Tracy and Randy kissing with an elephant in the background.

Happy birthday, Tracy!

On Monday, May 9, Tracy will be celebrating her birthday. We will have celebrated over the weekend and well into the week. Certainly I’m a believer in celebrating as best possible every day in our lives. Each day can be bogged down in challenge, routine, and the distraction from our choice to find or make something special in each day. I aspire to ensure my beloved wife has my appreciation, devotion, and the best of my love each day. I aspire to ensure she knows that as well.

Our weekly blog enables us to share many important messages, exciting adventures, surprising revelations and yet few are as important as the notion of kindness and appreciation for those in our world who are important to us. Tracy enriches my life in many ways, she supports me personally, she supports the 2020 Vision Quest vision, and she finds many ways to give of herself to others. She has her frustrations, triumphs, and challenges as do we all. This week I want to share the gift she is in my life and to wish her as many moments of success and celebration as possible. Thank you for being so vital to my life and this charity! Happy Birthday!


1 May 16

As we close out the 2016 Boston Marathon experience, a couple of particularly well received social media posts by Jose and Randy were very well received. We thought it appropriate to share these reflections fully with this week’s blog. We’ll begin with Randy’s “morning after” reflections and wrap up with Jose’s stirring account of the entire experience. Thank you to all those who support us in so many ways including this year’s Marathon which was an entirely different and exceedingly difficult excursion. There is so much to take away and well worth our capturing here.

From Randy Pierce:

Jose and Randy with their hands up running the Marathon.

Jose and Randy throw their hands up in victory.

The morning after – no regrets, proud, weary, appreciative and sharing some candid perspectives. I did not run the Boston Marathon yesterday, I ran it last year with a 3:50:37 time. Yesterday I did something considerably harder in large part to the matched support, determination, care and communication with my most excellent friend and guide, Jose Acevedo. We crossed the finish which I truly didn’t expect was likely and we did it needing somewhere around 6 hours and 18 minutes. The medical challenges of the last two months have changed my overall health significantly and they caused me to do absolutely no training for he final five weeks before the Marathon. With my body thus very much unprepared and with the additional challenges, why in the world would I still choose to run? I had three full episodes of passing out along the route though we knew that was a possibility and had a plan for how to handle each of them. The Doctors were on board as I wrote in the blog last week and we knew it would be very unlikely to cause me additional long term detriment. What is necessary though is this needs to be my last “endurance” event until we can either resolve some of the medical realities or creatively find appropriate ways to manage them. Just as in my nearly two years in the wheelchair, just as in the early days of my total blindness; there is a need to address the situation as best possible. Yesterday was brutal, maybe moreso than any other challenge given all the factors but it was a prize with tremendous meaning for me and seemingly for many who expressed such kindness and support. I’m not going away anytime soon nor will I cease to work towards many meaningful and worthy goals personally, with 2020Vision Quest, NHAB, Lions and well beyond. I will ensure I do so with the forward thinking approach necessary for the serious nature of all aspects of my present life. thank you for more support than I could ever imagine possible – especially to Jose and Tracy who were both essential in this even being a potential never mind the reality which we made it by working together.

From Jose Acevedo:

Closing thoughts on the 2016 Boston Marathon…

Like many, I didn’t realize what I had signed up for. This isn’t about the physical challenge though – it’s about choosing how I want to live.

As most of you know, I guided my friend Randy Pierce in this marathon. I don’t line up to do these things for no reason. Randy and I first discussed this possibility shortly after we ran him to the 2014 national championship for fully blind athletes in December of 2014. At the time I said, “Man, I will *never* run another marathon … … … unless you want me to guide you in Boston. That would be worth the grueling training and a really really really hard day.”

We revisited that topic in September of 2015 while preparing to travel to Tanzania and then solidified our intent on the slopes of Africa’s tallest mountain, Kilimanjaro. As a tribute to our friendship and a sign of his gratitude for all I had done to support him and his goals, Randy asked me to guide him in Boston 2016.

Randy is better than me at running long distances. I will take him in short sprints all day, especially if I don’t tell him what direction to run, but his gazelle strides easily eat up the long stuff while I struggle mightily to train for something as epic as a marathon. For Randy to set aside the possibility of a much faster time to let me guide him was a sacrifice that I appreciated deeply. He would say that our relationship and the benefits of doing this together outweigh any sort of time-based goals, but I can’t let this notion slide by without being thankful. Together with our coach, Greg, taking into account our previous times and fitness levels at the beginning of training 16 weeks ago, we agreed that breaking 4 hours would be our target finish time. This would be harder for me than Randy if history were any indicator, but I was ready to put in the work to make this happen.

Fast forward 10 weeks, to 6 weeks ago. Within the span of a week or so, I started having calf issues that impacted my ability to train as hard or as much as I wanted, and Randy began to run into serious health issues that impacted his daily life, let alone his training. We had been in contact for the first 10 weeks at least once a week on the phone, but most of our chats were via Facebook where I would post my runs, trying to make sure he and Greg saw me putting in the effort and could coach me to success. From the point of my injury and the beginning of his most recent health battles, Randy and I began to speak on the phone almost daily.

Sometimes we would talk about my calf and what I could or should do to try some other approach towards wellness and marathon level fitness. Other times we would talk about his latest symptoms or hospital visit, discussing impacts on his routine and the lives of those around him, while exploring strategies for dealing with his potential ‘new normal’ to come. One of the challenges to a progressive condition like his is that whatever it takes physically, it never gives back. Whatever independence, strength, and quality of life eventually return to Randy’s life after new symptoms arise are only ever as a result of determination, hard work, problem solving, and at the root of all things, choices. The daily choices to continue engaging, living, loving, and pushing forward. This is one of the many reasons I love Randy. He makes admirable choices pretty darned consistently and like any of the greats, he makes those around him better. He makes me better.

As these last 6 weeks wore on, I eventually learned how to manage my calf issues and finally achieved a state of relative readiness. I wasn’t as far along as I wanted to be, but the 4 hour mark we set was still within sight. My chances weren’t super solid of hitting it, but I could do it with a little luck and a lot of help. Meanwhile, until he and I hit the road this past Saturday for a 2 mile shakeout, Randy hadn’t run in 5-6 weeks. He had a great foundation before then but to put it bluntly, he was falling very much out of marathon shape. His fitness level didn’t matter in Dallas where I was training since my job as a guide and friend was to be ready for any possibility. I did have to accept the very real possibility however, that we wouldn’t ever get to the starting line.

Believe me when I say that made it extra difficult to push through injuries and a recently *insane* work schedule to get my training back on track. There were many evenings that I would be driving home from the office at 10:30 at night, dreading a required 7 mile run in the windy dark, but I had to go all-in or stand no chance of meeting my commitments to our team. As the weeks progressed, we stayed in very close contact and our planning became day to day. Each day there was a chance this particular dream would be over before it started, or we could get through another 24 hours hoping and preparing in our separate ways – just to do it all over again the next day. I was limping, resting, and finally running again, while Randy was just trying to get and/or stay out of the hospital. This wasn’t an easy time for either of us but as it always has, adversity provided an opportunity for us to grow together even closer and we chose that route.

Randy and Jose, determined to succeed!

Randy and Jose, determined to succeed!

Last Thursday, I finally got on a plane to Boston and met him in Nashua, NH. The days that followed, like every day for the past month and a half, were a mixture of ups and downs. Where betting odds on us starting the marathon had shifted daily for a while, it was nearly by the hour these past few days. A good morning would be followed by a rough patch in the afternoon, and then get slightly better in the evening. Our commitment to our new plan was unwavering and absolute, as long as health risks stayed in check, represented by the following goals:

  1. Start the marathon.
  2. Savor every moment possible.
  3. Finish the marathon.

Goals 1 and 2 were critical, 3 was nice if we could get it but frankly, far less likely. When all was said and done, we were able to put ourselves into a position Sunday evening that meant we were waking up at 5am on Monday and boarding the bus to Hopkinton.While we were both tired for a variety of reasons, confidence was high on Monday morning. We both felt as good as we had in weeks and hey, we were there. Goal #1 was practically a guarantee at this point. We even flirted with a 4th goal. Maybe, just maybe, we would be able to finish in less than 5 hours and qualify Randy for Boston 2017. We strategized as much for that as for the possibility that Randy would suffer episodes of unconsciousness along the course. What would our communication look like in the moments before unconsciousness? How would I get him to a safe place and help him coordinate a quick but controlled transition to a lying position? What exactly would I tell emergency responders who would no doubt want to pull us from the course? I don’t think we left a single stone unturned and while there is comfort in planning, it’s also freaking exhausting. Luckily, we wouldn’t have anything else on our minds during, you know, a marathon.

As the run began, our confidence only grew. We were in the last corral of wave 3 (of 4) and decided to start at the very back of the corral, therefore the wave. We were going out intentionally slow and thought it would do us some good to avoid the early crunch of bodies by effectively placing ourselves in between the final two waves. This worked like a charm and we had a ton of space for the opening third of the course. Let me make this clear if you’ve never participated in a road race before – this is unheard of, especially for a race like Boston. The weather was a little on the warm side but otherwise perfect and we both began to consider the best potential outcomes. Not necessarily under 4 hours, but certainly well under 5 hours.

The wheels didn’t come off at 7.9 miles, but they definitely began to wobble. Despite our measured start, Randy’s weeks of missed training caught up with us and though we had planned to begin walking one minute of every five at the 13 mile mark (above and beyond walking through all our water and nutrition walks), he needed a walk just to rest … 5 miles early. This came on fairly quickly, as a result of numerous unwelcome setbacks in his condition. What began as numbness in his extremities a few miles earlier progressed up his neck and to the top of his head, ultimately kicking off a headache that would be a main point of trouble for much of the day. This earlier-than-planned walking meant a longer day than recently anticipated, but everything was still imminently doable. We did the math and confirmed we still felt good about finishing under 5 hours, while I began to track us by the minute. Unfortunately, the need for walks began to rise, as did Randy’s headache level, further raising my concerns that things were going to get tougher before they got easier. While we managed to enjoy the world famous Scream Tunnel of Wellesley College at mile 13, I would be lying by omission if I didn’t admit I was growing deeply worried about our ability to even finish at the rate our problems were mounting.

It was shortly after Wellesley, around 14.1 miles into the race, that Randy first lost consciousness. Over the past 6 weeks, we had accepted this potential reality and planned for it. While Randy was feeling more confident it would not happen based on a week and a half on a new and seemingly helpful prescription, I had approached the day as if this was guaranteed to occur. Call me a pessimist, but as the only member of our team who would be conscious during a potential episode, I thought it prudent to be as ready as possible. Having said that and even though I had watched his symptoms steadily increase over the miles, it still came as somewhat of a shock when Randy communicated he was likely to faint.

As I sit here typing on the plane ride home with tears welling in my eyes, I realize that nothing can fully prepare you for the moment you see a close friend and personal hero about to go down on your watch. I’ve seen Randy stumble and fall before. I’ve even had him faint once, very quickly, on the infamous trek down Kilimanjaro. For whatever reason, none of those moments were quite as scary as this one – perhaps because we were never alone so I wasn’t 100% responsible for all that came next. Fortunately for everyone involved, for that same reason, I had zero time to panic. Not only was I the only person immediately available to help keep Randy safe in that moment, but I also had to do so in such a confident and assuring way that it remained our choice as to whether we would exit the race or continue onwards towards Boylston Street and the finish line. I considered the chances fairly high that medical professionals or other race officials would make that decision for us given the chance. So in summary, I had to keep my shit together. I’m clearly not done processing this whole experience, but writing it out is helping.

We were in the middle of a water station on the right side of the road with a mob of runners back, left, and front, and tables stacked with water on the right. Of all the places to go down this seemed to offer the least options, as we appeared to have no direct access off the course and runners would be darting in and out of traffic to grab water and re-enter the migrating herd. Luckily, there was a spot about 4 feet wide in-between two water tables just ahead and with a semi-conscious Randy wrapped in my arms, thank goodness still with the use of his legs, we staggered into this small sanctuary and I quickly helped him lay down. From him saying, “I’m going to faint,” to him being down on a bed of discarded water cups on the ground was probably about 10 seconds – all the time we thought we might get in this scenario – and we had withstood our first crisis of the day.

As you may expect, the incredibly helpful water volunteers nearby were a bit concerned. Single-minded of purpose in their role as Hydration Engineers (a thankless task that I sincerely appreciate), I got a lot of offers for water at that moment. I promptly answered that we were all set and calmly informed them that our challenge was courtesy of a known medical condition that would clear up on its own. When asked repeatedly if we needed help from emergency personnel, after confirming Randy was breathing regularly and all symptoms were ‘normal’ as compared to prior episodes in the last 6 weeks, I assured them we just needed a little time and we would be on our merry way. I couldn’t be certain this was the case until Randy came to, but I knew the chance of us being allowed to choose to continue would get a lot tougher if I didn’t make this all seem very normal and that was our agreed upon plan. Luckily, though I had never witness one of these episodes before, Randy and I had prepared well so I knew all the details and was able to describe to those who asked exactly how long we would take to rest on the ground and then standing, before continuing on. This level of detail and my brimming confidence assuaged their fears and they went about their business of hydrating runners, though I was temporarily trapped under Randy.

As I had guided him down to the ground, I had cradled the back of his head and my hand was still down there, while I sat immediately beside him. A couple of seconds after laying down, with his feet flat on the ground and his knees up, when Randy had actually gone unconscious, his long legs had rolled over on top of me. So there I was, working hard not to freak out, brimming with feigned confidence, communicating our hoped-for exit strategy, trapped under my passed-out friend. Perfect; just like you draw it up. We had just run most of a half marathon in warm conditions so yeah, I started to cramp up pretty quickly. Luckily, Randy was only out for about 25-30 seconds and shortly thereafter, ‘with it’ enough for me to negotiate my way out and onto my feet for some stretching while we began his recovery countdown.

Doctor’s orders for the run, and they were fully supportive of this endeavor to be absolutely clear, were that he stay down for a full 4 minutes and then stand still for 1, before easing his way back into walking. We couldn’t rush him back into action. I used this time to stretch out my cramps and talk through the episode with Randy, so we could strategize on next steps. To say he was frustrated and upset is an understatement. I cannot begin to describe what it must be like for him at this transition phase in his life, losing independence and control as the vast unknowns of his condition reassert themselves over current in-flight strategies. I’ll let him speak to that in his own time and space. What I will share with his permission is that the impacts are profound and emotional, and we would fight through them together for the next 4 hours or so.

Which I suppose is really what this whole story is about. All the words above are simply a backdrop and introduction – necessary context to the story I’m not yet ready to type out in detail. It’s the story of my friendship with Randy, and how much he and our relationship mean to me. Over the course of the next 45,000 or so steps, Randy and I went through a lot together, walking most of the second half of the marathon. We talked about the work and how we felt, and adjusted plans by the mile. We negotiated different approaches to needs and obstacles along the way, with varying degrees of clarity, frustration, emotion, and success. We grew a little impatient with each other over the difference between guilt and gratitude, leading to a pretty cool point of learning for both of us that I know Randy will be expounding on soon. Randy went down two more times – once around 19 miles and again around 22.5, and we both got better at handling it. The officers and emergency personnel along the route were amazingly accommodating and helpful in every instance. Randy’s physical pain fluctuated but certainly grew more than shrank as his untrained muscles responded to the shock of the day. The key, as with every adventure we’ve taken on over the course of more than 20 years of friendship, is that we did it selflessly and for each other. Both of us, in our own ways and to our own ability in the moment, did our best to give more than take. Despite our vastly different physical condition yesterday, we both tried our damnedest to put the other first. For this I am so very grateful.

We would eventually see the Citgo sign and John Hancock tower in the distance, signaling our approach to Boston. More than 6 hours after we began, we would hobble over to Randy’s wife Tracy at the corner of Hereford and Boylston, where they would embrace and kiss in love and support. From there, Randy and I would agree to try running to the finish, not fully realizing it was a solid third of a mile away. We would run that last stretch to the echoing cheers of the most supportive fans in the sport, and hear the race announcer call out Randy’s name just yards away from the achievement of our third and final goal. We would cross the most famous finish line in the world with our arms raised triumphantly, together, the way we always have.

Jose and Randy at the finish line with Tracy. Photo credit Kathy Dunn.

Jose and Randy at the finish line with Tracy. Photo credit Kathy Dunn.

None of us know yet exactly what comes next for Randy. There will be more doctors’ appointments and tests, but his first three decades dealing with his nameless condition haven’t exactly been full of helpful findings so I think we’re all prepared to just keep rolling with the unknown as best we can. I do know that I’m not the only one that’s scared and upset. It was impossible not to be punched in the stomach repeatedly by that harsh reality during yesterday’s trial.

What had begun as an adventure so long ago had transformed into an ordeal, testing different kinds of limits in ways we had not imagined. That is the true take-away for me from this whole experience – reinforcement of an important lesson I try to be thankful for and build on every day. I think we could have chalked up just starting yesterday as a win, given the frame of Randy’s current reality. Persevering to the finish was, to me, a statement that together and by choice, we can achieve incredible outcomes. If we dare to create a vision, apply ourselves in planning for success, and put intentional plans into motion together, we can inspire ourselves and others beyond what seems possible.

I suspect my Boston Marathon experience was different to many in the details, but perhaps not as much on the opportunity to learn. I will say this … if you have an adventure you have been putting off for any reason, find a way to do it. Time is precious and every chance matters. If you are already an adventurer, consider finding someone to help along in their journey – perhaps as a guide. It is a completely different, and in my experience significantly more intense and fulfilling undertaking.

I will forever be grateful to everyone who helped make this experience a reality. Thank you.


23 Apr 16

By Randy Pierce

Randy running the Boston Marathon 2016, eyes closed, with Jose.As most hopefully are aware, Jose Acevedo and I just completed a particularly difficult battle of determination against my medical challenges and the Boston Marathon course. Although we fully understood my very present and worsening medical condition was going to make this experience exceedingly difficult, my reality is that I feel badly for that impact upon his experience. In response to that feeling, I wanted to apologize every moment I felt my situation affect our experience. I was so frustrated at not being able to prevent these effects that I ultimately wanted to take action in some way and this led to the many “I’m sorry”s, which were well meaning. Unfortunately it isn’t necessarily helpful to hear these apologies again and again, especially as Jose fully understood this was a likely part of the challenge and he too was unable to do anything to make it better for either of us. It wasn’t that I had less sincerity in each apology, or that he doubted that sincerity. It simply wasn’t helpful and didn’t do much to make either of us feel better.

Jose and Randy running together in the Boston Marathon 2016Somewhere in the Newton Hills as we talked our way through this aspect of our communication, we reached an epiphany. I had expressed my thankfulness for his understanding and acceptance of the challenge. I expressed this with the notion of the benefit I was trying to achieve for myself in taking some action. I mentioned that in truth I felt guilty about believing I was “causing” a negative aspect for him. I understood only a bit that my repeated apology was just another slight negative. Jose brought it to clarity for us both by welcoming my gratitude as a positive. How simple a notion!

It is obviously good and right to apologize when we have done something to cause detriment to someone, whether by intent or inadvertently. It is equally positive and proper to realize the expression of thankfulness for someone’s choices in managing the challenges we create for them. That approach puts the emphasis on something so much more beneficial for each of us that it will certainly get my consideration as I stride forward in life. There were many lessons shared on the path of the Marathon which will continue far beyond the route from Hopkinton to Boston. I hope this one may enhance some perspectives for some of you, as I know it will for Jose and me going forward!


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