This Inspiring, Blind Young Man Is Running the NYC Marathon to Save Lives

October 29, 2015 Updated: October 29, 2015

Charles-Edouard Catherine is not like any other typical runner. Three years ago, he lost his eye sight. When many would have been depressed, he chose the light of positivity and started running. He is now going to run his first New York City Marathon and is raising funds for two foundations. We asked him to share his inspiring story.

Sibylle Eschapasse: Tell us about yourself?

Charles-Edouard Catherine: I am the director of an NGO called Surgeons of Hope, we strive to provide every infant and child with a damaged heart with an equal opportunity to receive life-saving surgery. We build heart centers, we send medical teams to Latin America, and we train local doctors to perform those surgeries even after we leave.

I could either stay at home, in the dark, in the comfort of my loneliness, or I could go out and do something that always inspired me.
— Charles-Edouard Catherine, director, Surgeons of Hope

Ms. Eschapasse: Why will you run the 2015 NYC Marathon?

Mr. Catherine: That’s a good question, I guess that I want to prove something to myself.

I moved to New York three years ago, I’m originally from France.  My wife is from the city, I came here to be with her. I must also say that I have RP (retinitis pigmentoza); I became legally blind around this time.

When I lost my sight, a few years ago, I soon realized that I had a choice. I could either stay at home, in the dark, in the comfort of my loneliness, or I could go out and do something that always inspired me. What was paradoxical is that every day, as my vision grew a little worse, I felt a little more free. I had decided to run.

Kathrine Switzer wrote: “If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.”

The New York City Marathon is the most inspiring moment of the year. I cheer for these people because they have the right state of mind; they tell me that anything is possible. I could still be inside, in my comfort zone, but I am now free, and soon I will be one of those inspiring runners!

Ms. Eschapasse: What is the most difficult thing for a blind runner on marathon day?

Mr. Catherine: Like everyone else, finishing!

I am very fortunate to have three amazing guides, I trust them 100 percent. They really allow me to focus on the race.

Ms. Eschapasse: How does it work?

Mr. Catherine: I have a tether around my waist, I follow the instructions of my guide. The two other guides warn other runners, protect me, and they are also ready to take over if my main guide isn’t having a good day. After all, this is a marathon for everyone!

Ms. Eschapasse: How did you find those guides?

Mr. Catherine: I am part of a club called Achilles International, it’s an amazing organization.

In 1976, Dick Traum, an above-the-knee amputee, found himself approaching middle age and out of shape. After joining a local YMCA, Dick began running small distances at first and then, eventually several miles. Within a year, Dick became the first amputee to run the New York City Marathon. The experience was life changing, bringing a powerful sense of achievement and self-esteem. In 1983, seeking to provide that same opportunity to other people with disabilities, Dick created the Achilles Track Club, now called Achilles International.

Ms. Eschapasse: Where do you practice?

Mr. Catherine: I run in Central Park almost every day. Overall, I ran about 500 miles to prepare for this marathon. That’s a lot of laps!

If people want to know more about Achilles and about my preparation, they should go to my blog: www.charlesruns.nyc

Ms. Eschapasse: Did this have an effect on your professional life?

Mr. Catherine: Absolutely, it helps me see things with a different eye. Preparing for a marathon requires both a lot of determination, and a lot of patience. I had to overcome injuries, setbacks, but I never gave up. It also helped me be more confident, and I am very happy to be able to raise money for my NGO through this incredible race.

I have served as Executive Director of Surgeons of Hope for 18 months, and I could not be more proud of who we are and what we do. As an example, since we started our program in Nicaragua, we have operated on over 600 children. Just imagine those parents, those families who were about to lose a child, and who now have hope, thanks to our support.

Sibylle Eschapasse is from Paris and now lives in Manhattan. She is a journalist and a contributing writer to various publications. Sibylle is also the author of a children’s book, “Argy Boy a New York Dog Tale.” She may be reached at sibylle.eschapasse@gmail.com

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