We did it! Dan Berlin just made history as the first blind runner to cross the Grand Canyon rim to rim to rim in one go. I am forever changed by my experience as one of his four guides…it’s hard to capture it all into words and I’ve been crafting different essays on what it was like to guide a blind person for the first time, how it changed me, and long and complicated road to get here, squeezing in training into an already difficult work-life balance as a working mother of three. In this moment of celebration, I wanted to share some details and photos of the run itself. As I look back on the last few days, reeling in the joy of my experience, the words that come to my mind are inspiring, exhausting, breathtaking, challenging and FUN. So much fun I would do it again (I said it here first).
Running Rim to Rim to Rim is not easy. It is a 46-mile route over rocky terrain included 25,000+ feet of elevation change, and in certain sections, dangerous switchbacks on narrow trails beside thousand-foot drop offs. I took turns guiding Dan with my fellow guides Charles Scott, Brad Graff and Pete Kardasis, usually two at a time - one in front and one behind to keep him safe. We took only short breaks to refuel, refill water supplies, repair damaged feet (blisters!!) and other body parts, wrap sore joints, and encourage one another not to give up (this last one was big as we all dipped into a bit of despair at various moments, thankfully not all at once). Perhaps the most amazing part of this for me was that we were completely self-supported, and at one point with no water stops in sight for miles, had to refill our bottles from the Bright Angel Creek.
Here is a photo of our group near the end of our adventure:
|Alison Qualter Berna, Dan Berlin, Charles Scott, Pete Kardasis, and Brad Graff|
Dan is a powerful person. He is quiet and kind and quickly put his trust in each of us, knowing that his completion could inspire hundreds of people affected by blindness. He describes his blindness as an inconvenience instead of a disability. Rather than focusing on what he cannot do, he explores what he can do.
That philosophy is really a lesson for all of us, isn’t it? We all face some level of adversity or choose to see the perceived impediments to our dreams. Overcoming the obstacles in our lives is never easy, but Dan’s example proves that with dedicated focus and unconditional support, it IS possible.
We've received a lot of donations to the two blindness foundations we're supporting. Thank you! For those who haven't donated, but would like to, the page is still open:
We're getting lots of press interest, and more press is in the works. We have even more TV and print coverage coming up later in the month...
I am so proud of Dan and I am honored to have been a part of this experience!!