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Marla Runyan

Thu, 08/01/2013 - 13:01 -- deepti.gahrotra

When at age 9, Marla Runyan developed Stargardt's Disease, a form of macular degeneration that left her legally blind, she promised not let the disease hold her back in life. Her doctors had very low expectations for her future, predicting that she would never get above a “C” in school, learn to drive, or go to college.

At that time, she was very active in soccer and gymnastics, but eventually had to drop them when her vision made it hard for her to see the soccer ball. Not one to be deterred so easily, she soon picked up running. It didn't take long for her to become hooked. She continued running and competing in the Heptathlon, 200m dash, high jump, hurdles, long jump, javelin throw, and 800m run throughout her high school years and during college at San Diego State.

Marla first made waves at the 1992 Summer Paralympics when she won four gold medals, and she repeated the great feat at the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta, where she took silver in the shot put and gold in the pentathlon events.

This was however, only the beginning. Marla believed that, it wasn't enough to compete in and win at the Paralympics, she wanted to be able to compete in the able-bodied sporting events and prove that given the same playing field, ability to perform  trumps disability. In 1996 she made her first foray into able-bodied sporting events, by trying out for the 1996 Olympics. However failing to qualify did not stop her trying again, and finally her career as a world-class runner in able-bodied sporting events began in 1999 at the Pan American Games, where she won the 1,500-meter race. The next year, she placed eighth in the 1,500-meter in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, making Runyan the first legally blind athlete to compete in the Olympics and the highest finish by an American woman in that event.

By 2001 she won her first of three consecutive 5000 metre National Championships. She also released her autobiography "No Finish Line: My Life As I See It" In 2002 she added the road 5K and 10K National Championships, and married her coach, Matt Lonergan. Currently Marla lives in Oregon, USA with her husband, daughter and dog and believes be it a race or life, you need to give a 110% so that when you walk off the track you dont carry any guilt with you ever. Her motto in life: No Regrets.

Saturday, January 4, 1969
United States

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