Blind man finishes NYC half marathon with the help of guide dogs for the 1st time

Guiding Eyes for the Blind President and CEO, Thomas Panek, runs the first ever 2019 United Airlines NYC Half Led Completely by Guide Dogs, with Gus on March 17 in New York City. (Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Guiding Eyes For The Blind)

NEW YORK CITY — With the help of some very good boys, runner Thomas Panek became the first blind man to finish the United Airlines Half Marathon in New York City on Sunday, along with a trio of guide dogs.

Three highly-trained running guide dogs, Waffle, Westley and Gus, aided Panek as he ran the 13-mile race through New York City. All three are Labrador Retrievers and Gus, who paced Panek for the final 5K of the race, was the first running guide dog ever to complete a New York Road Runners event.

"It's a long race, but dogs are running creatures and they love to move and run," Panek told local ABC station WABC ahead of the race. "A lot of times, when we're walking our dogs, we are holding them back. They want to get out and have fun, and they love it."


Panek ran the half marathon to raise money for blind athletes to be able to get service dogs that can both guide them and run with them.

"There's a big demand from people who have vision loss that want to be active, want to be, well, like the rest of us, want to get out there with their dog," Panek told WABC.

He added that the dogs help him to navigate curbs, other runners and potholes.

"The biggest obstacle is getting it done at a faster pace, moving with the dog and keeping our footwork together," he said. "Like everybody else, one step at a time."

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