Mike Merino (left) and his guide Curtis Nash (right) posing after finishing the Asheville Marathon
“My loss of vision closed many doors such as losing my ability to drive, which in turn opened doors like this one.”
Every day we hear amazing stories of people setting out to achieve their goals no matter their limitations. Mike Merino is certainly amongst this group of inspiring people. Merino has a hereditary disease, Usher Syndrome Type II, which caused moderate hearing loss at birth and an onset of Retinitis Pigmatosis (a degenerative eye disease) in his 20s. He was not formally diagnosed until his late 30s. Despite his diagnosis, he discovered endurance sports and began his journey of becoming a runner. Little did he know he would overcome more then he ever imagined!
As a former athlete, staying in shape was important to me. When I crossed the threshold of being legally blind back in 2011, I hit a point where that became a bit more difficult. My sweet mother told me I looked a little heavy during a Thanksgiving visit and I knew I had to do something about it. That is when I started running. I don’t consider myself a runner, just an ex-football linebacker trying to get back in shape. However, there is something about the training and running in races like The Asheville Marathon that keeps me in the sport.
Training has its limitations, but that doesn’t stop me. Most of my training is done on the treadmill since it’s hard for me to run safely outside; but after an hour or so it can get kind of boring. Running on the Biltmore Estate is so much more interesting with the idyllic scenery and altering terrain. Cody, my service dog, watches me on the treadmill in between naps but it’s not the same energy I get from a race environment. The support of Asheville’s cheering spectators and other runners makes me dig a little deeper and push myself harder. Hill training, the course and the race environment is why I’m coming back to run in the Asheville Marathon.
“In 2016, the Asheville Marathon was my qualifying race for an entry into the 2017 Boston Marathon.”
Although Boston has about 30,000 runners, the acceptance of entry is based on qualifying time, with the fastest qualifiers being accepted first until the race is full. Typically one would need a 3:25 qualifying time to apply, but considering my circumstances, I only needed under 5 hours. This was a huge accomplishment! My loss of vision closed many doors for me such as losing the ability to drive, which in turn opened doors like this one. If someone told me 5 years ago that I would run in the 2013 and 2017 Boston Marathon I would say the chances of that were very slim.
Mike Merino will be our guest speaker March 10th at the Asheville Marathon and Half Pre-Race Dinner.
To hear his full story get your tickets today!