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home > races/results > usa: massachusetts > the vision 5k, a unique event for all that helps level the playing field

The Vision 5K, A Unique Event for All That Helps Level the Playing Field
This race is for everyone, all runners and walkers, and offers a unique challenge and awesome fun for all participants. One of the most interesting and enjoyable sporting events in the Boston region, the Vision 5K includes elite runners as well as beginners, and it is the National Championship for blind and visually impaired runners.

The Vision 5K, A Unique Event for All That Helps Level the Playing Field

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Active Running

By Michelle Boisvert
Posted Monday, 10 May, 2010

The theme is, "Run with your feet, see with your heart." And the goal is independence for all. But this event, which is a USATF-certified 5K, is for all runners and walkers, whether their first race or the most recent of many. It is very professionally organized as a top regional 5K with all the amenities, including chip timing and excellent facilities and venues. This is a 5K you do not want to miss.

With determination and the right tools, everyone can accomplish just about anything they set their mind to. And for the past 10 years, the Vision 5K Run and Walk has proven exactly that. They have raised awareness and over a million dollars for blind and visually impaired men, women and children, and for support of programs for the visually impaired members of the community. The race offers a challenging but fast course starting and finishing at Boston College with a sizable field of dedicated runners and walkers of all abilities, making this one stellar event. This is a terrific event for families, and includes a kids' fun run and post race entertainment for all. Be part of this unique road race highlighting everyone's determination and enjoyment in motion; it will be a most inspirational experience on Sunday, June 20th!

A Course with Character
Are you wondering how a course can be both fast and challenging? Well, it’s all about knowing when to hold back, how to pace yourself and when to let it out, according to Race Director Joe Quintanilla, the primary originator of this event; he is also the Director of Development at the Carroll Center for the Blind. He said it offers a balanced mix of ups and downs placed at just the right points on this course, which can make or break your race. Visit their excellent Race Website at for detailed information on the course and all aspects of the race and related events.

Kids will have an opportunity to participate with a fun run beginning at 9:30 a.m. for ages 12 and under. The kids will also be rewards with various activities, including balloons, face painting and more as all participants enjoy live entertainment on the Boston College campus.

When the big race starts at 10 a.m. in front of Boston College’s Gasson Hall, runners and walkers will take off down historic Commonwealth Avenue for a fast first mile on the Boton marathon course. Where is the downhill on Commonwealth Avenue, you may ask? Well, every runner has either heard of or personally battled with Boston’s infamous “Heartbreak Hill. This course essentially starts at the top of Heartbreak Hill and heads out on that steep downhill often referred to as the “Meat Grinder” for the toll that the pounding it can take on the quads. This downhill mile is definitely where holding back and pacing yourself come into play.
The course flattens out before turning onto Beacon Street to begin the return loop as runners begin the mostly gradual climb back to the campus and Glasson Hall. If you hit that downhill at the start a bit too fast, then you’re going to feel this 1/3 mile uphill, said Quintanilla.

That return uphill section is the time to look to those enthusiastic crowds and volunteers at the water stops and along the entire course. Their support can really help to push you through some of those rough points. Once you make it up that bump in the road, though, you can kick in the last ¼ mile for a fast downhill finish through the main gates of Boston College. Take it all in and congratulate yourself for passing through what runners have come to know as one of the most beautiful finish lines in Massachusetts. For a complete course map, visit

Running in Solidarity
It’s not just the course and terrific venues that makes this event unique. It’s also the fact that you have a chance to run or walk the race alongside the people that you’re supporting. This will be the National Championship for Blind and Visually Impaired Athletes, sanctioned by the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes (USABA). As such many of the best blind and visually impaired runners and walkers from all over the world will come to Boston take part in the Vision 5K, one of very few races with a division designated for blind and visually impaired athletes. They will make up approximately 10% of the field.

The Vision 5K is also one of the few races to offer prize money for blind and visually impaired runners. The total purse is $8,500; $7,600 is awarded to the top five men and woman in the Visually Impaired Division, and $900 to the top three American men and women in that division. Other top finishers and age group winners receive custom medals.

In previous years, many of the overall 5K winners were visually impaired athletes—posting extremely fast finish times. Kenya’s Francis Thuo, holds the course record of 15:53 (2005); Henry Wanyoike of Kenya holds the third fastest time of 16:12 (in 2002); and Mexico’s Moises Beristain Gutierrez’s 2005 finish time of 16:18 puts him in fifth place all time in this race.

In the women’s division, Pamela McGonigle of Pennsylvania a blind Olympian, holds the record (2002) with a time of 19:40. She added an overall third place the following year at 20:43. Kenya’s Julie Chepkopus, also visually impaired, ranks second for her 2005 finish time of 20:07.

The Blindfold Challenge: Teamwork and Understanding
Another dynamic component of this event is the Blindfold Challenge. In this interesting and fundraising dimension of the race, sighted runners and walkers put themselves in the shoes of visually impaired athletes by running the course blindfolded. Each blindfolded runner and his or her sighted guide use a tether to navigate along the course, giving sighted individuals the experience of running without vision. Guides must be able to run at least two minutes faster than blindfolded individuals, so runners are in no way held back and can run to their full potential.

And while it seems challenging, participants learn that—with teamwork and the proper tools—it’s completely possible to do the same activities as anyone else. It’s also a great team-building event for corporate teams. Vision 5K race organizers can pair up Blindfold Challenge participants with guides, or runners/walkers can sign up with their own guides.

Each team must raise $1,500, which directly supports services of The Vision 5K’s four partner organizations—the Carroll Center for the Blind, MAB Community Services, National Braille Press, and Perkins School for the Blind. For more information on the Blindfold Challenge and for training dates, visit

Spend the Day at the Race
The Vision 5K run and walk isn’t just a show up, race and go home kind of event. The post-race festivities are busy as the race itself! And there’s something for the entire family. Kids 12 and under can take part in their own Fun Run and finishers receive a T-shirt and a medal.
Post-race activities include face painting, balloon making/designing, Violet the Clown, big bubble blowers, an obstacle course and equipment from the Newton YMCA for kids; and live music and lots of food for all. It will be perfect for a summertime outing—hot dogs, burgers and treats from the Mix 104.1 ice cream truck. Several vendors will also be on-hand to display products and technologies geared toward the blind and visually impaired community.

Did Someone Say Red Sox Tickets?
Every runner needs a little time off and every New Englander needs a little Sox. If you want to get in the running to win a pair of Red Sox tickets, it couldn’t be any simpler. Become a fan of Vision 5K on Facebook and you will automatically be entered into a drawing to win two tickets! Log onto Facebook today and become a fan—the drawing will be held on May 31st.

Get in on the Action
Don’t miss the Vision 5K—a unique and inspiring event with a challenging and fast course that has runners itching to hit the road. This race has something for the entire family and raises money for four dedicated charitable organizations— the Carroll Center for the Blind, MAB Community Services, National Braille Press and Perkins School for the Blind.

If you are not running you can still get involved as a volunteer. While friends and family race, you can help make it possible. See the "Get Involved" tab on the Race Website. And the post race celebration will be for all as well, with baked goods, ice cream, popcorn, and beverages including that famous Paul Newman's Own McDonalds coffee.

The mission of the Vision 5K is something everyone can understand—independence. Run or walk the 5K or try the Blindfold Challenge and help level the playing field for blind and visually impaired athletes everywhere. Register today at



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