Mar. 11 Cindy Rogers was born with retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), a degenerative eye disease that leads to blindness, and by her early 40s was legally blind. Her love of reading inspired her to teach herself to read Braille which indirectly led her to running. Since 1998, Cindy has worked as a barista at Starbucks, wearing a button informing customers that she is visually impaired. She works at the cash register recognizing her regular customers by their voice. Starbucks, a long time supporter of literacy, motivated Cindy to take the company’s commitment to a new level by promoting Braille literacy. In June of 2005, Cindy began the “Children’s Story Hour,” using National Braille Press print/Braille children’s books.
1. You didn’t take up running until after you were legally blind. What caused you to get into running?
I was doing a Braille & large print story time at Starbucks using books from National Braille Press. NBP was one of five organizations which hosts an annual 5K fundraiser event. This event is also sanctioned by the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA). In early 2007 I began fundraising for NBP. I must have fallen out of bed one night & hit my head because I also decided to run the 5K as well as raise money!!
2. Being blind presents a few challenges runners without a visual impairment don’t have to deal with, what has been the toughest obstacle to your running? TRUST! Take a moment & think about running along a path with your eyes closed while holding onto the loop of a 2 ½ ft tether. The other end is held by a sighted runner who has the responsibility to verbally guide you while running.
3. You used a sighted guide when you ran your first race, the Vision 5K. Do you always use a guide for races? Do you limit your races to races sanctioned by the United States Association of Blind Athletes or do you run traditional races as well? If I didn’t use a guide I doubt I would be writing this as I would be lost running somewhere! I am up for running in any kind of race. Hmm… perhaps I should back up a bit… I don’t really run many races, but I love to do runs.
4. You have been candid about your battles with anorexia and alcoholism. Has running contributed to overcoming your addiction and reclaiming your identity? Fortunately, those battles were years behind me when I began running. I will say, though, that the running & the freedom of running was more exhilarating knowing that I had overcome those addictions.
5. What has been your greatest running accomplishment? What is your ultimate goal? Truly, my greatest running accomplishment was the first ½ mile that I ran while holding onto the tether. I had no idea what was in front of me & it was absolutely terrifying! My ultimate goal? Well, in my head & in my heart I feel a burning desire to a marathon.
6. You are about to get your third guide dog. Do you ever run with your dogs? I think if you posed that question to my first two guides they would adamantly let you know that is NOT in their job description!
7. All runners have their share of funny and interesting stories, please share one of yours. When running with a sighted guide there is a constant dialogue occurring. I listen intently to cues such as: two steps to the left, small curb in ten steps, person walking a dog on your right in about ten seconds etc. During one of our runs preparing for the Aflac Iron Girl I heard my guide say “banana peel on your left in about four steps”. I immediately started laughing because not only did I think she was kidding, but I was thinking about the cartoon characters would slip on banana peels! She was serious! There was indeed a banana peel in our path!
8. Tell us about your training? I am sure there is a lot more coordination that needs to take place for you to get in your runs. Yes! I can’t to go for a run whenever I wish. I don’t have a permanent running partner. It is hard enough finding time to have your own running schedule, but, as a blind runner, there are the schedules of two runners that must be considered. I do a lot of training on the treadmill which is not very motivating and tedious. I find that running mostly on a treadmill is much harder on me physically.
9. You are a certified Yoga instructor. How does yoga complement your running? I truly believe yoga has been life changing for me. Not only has the practice increased my balance, flexibility, strength, endurance, and stamina, but I feel more self confident and more confident in my ability to participate in running events. Yoga helps me to feel comfortable inside of my own body. The entire practice of yoga is an all encompassing technique for more successful running.
10. If you could go on a nice Sunday run with three people (living or dead) who would you choose and why?
- Wilma Rudolph – One of the greatest runners of all time. My first impression of a female athlete was watching her run. One of my favorite quotes of hers was “Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion. The potential for greatness lies within each of us.”
- Barack Obama — How cool would it be to be tethered to him as we went for a Sunday morning run??!!
- Jan Schwartz – My mother who died in March of 2009 from emphysema & pneumonia – I would love to go on a Sunday morning run with her without her breathing limitations – just because we could!
If you are interested in helping Cindy with her runs or achieving her goal of running a marathon, please send an email with your contact information.