Yesterday, Thomas Panek made history.
His running guide dogs Westley, Waggle, and Gus, also made history.
On March 17th, Panek and the three guide dogs ran the NYC Half Marathon, making him the first blind runner to complete the famous half marathon with guide dogs.
The New York City Half Marathon is this Sunday and Thomas Panek will become the first blind person to run the race led completely by guide dogs pic.twitter.com/EHKJNWttbo
— TicToc by Bloomberg (@tictoc) March 16, 2019
The three pups, all Labrador Retrievers, took turns pacing him along the 13.1-mile course.
Panek and the pooches finished the race in two hours and 20 minutes.
When Thomas lost his sight in his early 20s, he has never given up his love of running. He has completed 20 marathons with human guides, he wanted more independence on the course. This inspired him to start a formal training program for running guide dogs.
Amazing accomplishment!! Thomas Panek is visually impaired. Today, he ran the @nyrr half marathon with the help of three guide dogs trained by @GuidingEyes pic.twitter.com/I3YSA2l7EP
— Lydia S. Hu (@LydiaHuNews) March 17, 2019
In 2015 he established the “Running Guides” program at Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a certified non-profit in Westchester County, New York that has trained guide dogs for decades. So far, 24 dogs have completed the program and 12 are halfway to graduation. Training is difficult and rigorous for these dogs, and the bond between the runner and the dog is of the utmost importance.
Panek hopes his experience and his Running Guides program will inspire others with visual disabilities to push boundaries of what they believe is possible.