Not very often do we write a blog on an athlete of the month twice. However, the continued rise, success and motivation in one athlete needs to be revisited. Joey Beckman has continued to raise the bar. For those in our community that do not know who Joey is, he is a young man that lost 100% of his vision at age 24 in 2012 and because his desire to not be a victim of his circumstances, he has inspired us as well.
As you can imagine, he became severely depressed, sedentary and used food as his method of coping. Within 4 years he reached an official unhealthy weight of 360+ pounds. In 2016, he finally decided to change his lifestyle with the assistance of physical therapist, Lynne Virant. With her guidance and connections that he was making in our local running community, he changed directions and began his running journey.
GUIDES: Not one single guide had initial experience with guiding a blind runner. They just connected with him and did it. It hasn’t always been effortless: The guide must be more than his eyes. They need to verbalize every obstacle that one may take for granted when having sight. Every crack in the road that could alter his step and every low tree branch must be communicated. The communication needs to be crystal clear to avoid any misstep that can cause him to fall and also to keep pace and mileage. His group has learned and is still learning just how to do this every day.
One of the funniest stories shared was by former Running Wild employee, Alex Ellis. After guiding him by the famous tether, she looked down for 5 seconds to check her watch and Joey ran into a pole. “I had ONE job! Just ONE job and failed!!” she cried. But Joey has the best sense of humor and just rolls with the bumps in the road which has eased the anxiety a new guide might have.
Led by Amy Rose in 2018, he became the first blind man to run the Dopey Challenge: back to back races at Disney over 4 days that consisted of a 5k,10k, 13.1 miles and then 26.2 miles. At that point he still weighed 300 pounds and could not lose the weight with running alone. He then made the decision to have gastric sleeve surgery and lost over 150 pounds and has kept that weight off through his running and healthy meal choices. The lighter weight translated to faster foot turnover and new personal records at every race. By the Fall of 2019, he completed a triathlon with the guidance of triathlon coach, Dom Risola.
“Running has given me a purpose to keep pushing forward in life. With all the barriers presented to a blind man, it is one thing that I am able to do as long as I have a guide. Outside of a guide, there is nothing keeping me from accomplishing any goal I have set…except myself. Running has also allowed me to be a more social and come out of my shell. I have actually been able to create great friendships that I otherwise would not have if I was just staying at home only doing school work. Without Running Wild and all the people that are connected there, especially Lynne Virant by being the first to say yes and believe in me, my days would have remained without purpose. Lynne taught me to get uncomfortable and that is how you grow,” says Joey.
At a recent medical checkup, after the doctor checked his blood pressure at 100/60, and his pulse at 51, the doctor said he must be a runner! “Finally! To be called a runner by the doctor because of my health is a dream achieved! That and that he noticed my Brooks running shoes and said he had the same pair!!”
Joey goes on to say that “by doing the running and hopefully more triathlons in the future, I can shed light on the minority class that I fall under and hopefully help open more doors down the road for not only myself, but other disabled individuals.”
Running has given Joey a purpose and turned him proactive with his life. Before running he reacted with self pity and in turn, became lonely. Now you can see him running with more kind and selfless women than any other man in our community. He is part of a tribe with or without his sight.
If you or someone you know are interested in being a Blind Guide for Joey, please reach out to Joey on instagram@quackattack10124.