Thomas Panek, 48, has been a runner for quite some time — he’s run 20 races throughout his life. Ever since he lost his sight in his early 20’s, he was hesitant to continue running, but eventually trained to run in races with the help of human guides tethered to him. However, he wondered if it was possible to run a race without human guidance, instead led only with guide dogs.
Panek is the president and chief executive officer of Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a New-York based nonprofit organization that matches guide dogs to people with vision loss. Five years ago, Panek was paired with his own Guiding Eyes dog, and now 7-year-old yellow lab named Gus. In 2015, he developed the “Running Guides” program, which trains dogs to guide blind runners at a running pace.
This Sunday, Panek will be the first blind person to run the NYC Half Marathon, and he will be guided by a team of three dogs, Westley, Waffle and Gus.
Watch the video above to learn how Panek and his dogs will run Sunday’s race.