Blind man runs New York Marathon, guided by technology (video)

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Simon Wheatcroft previously ran several marathons. Even attempted a 150-mile ultra marathon in the Sahara Desert.

But this one was different. Last Sunday, Wheatcroft set out to complete his third New York City Marathon, but his first without the aid of a guide runner.

Wheatcroft, a 35-year-old Brit who has been legally blind since age 17, took off on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in Staten Island wearing two pieces of technology.

Bands around his chest and his upper left arm would guide him among a sea of runners — around 50,000 start this race annually, making it the world’s largest marathon. Over five bridges and around more than a dozen turns of 90 degrees or more.

“Seven years ago [when I started running], I never thought I’d get to the point where I could run solo the biggest marathon in the world,” said Wheatcroft, who was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa as he entered teenage years.

Wheatcroft wore a band around his chest with ultrasonic sensors triggering different vibrations when detecting people around him based on the distance. He wore an armband to help navigate the course, such as notifying him when to turn.

“Traditionally to compete usually there’s a guide runner, someone who runs alongside,” Wheatcroft said. “Whereas now, if I choose solo, I can just start entering races and trying to win them all alone.”

Light rain during Sunday’s race caused his technology to malfunction. Wheatcroft finished in 5 hours, 17 minutes, 40 seconds, completing the final several miles in Manhattan with the traditional aid of guide runners.

In May 2016, Wheatcroft reportedly covered about 100 miles of the 150-mile Sahara Race in Africa using a smartphone app as a guide.

In 2014, he reportedly ran 240 miles in nine days from Boston to New York City — and then ran the New York City Marathon in 5:13:18.

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MORE: Shalane Flanagan on her future after winning NYC Marathon

Shalane Flanagan on returning to NYC Marathon finish line, future

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NEW YORK — Shalane Flanagan returned to the New York City Marathon finish line at Central Park twice in the 24 hours after she won the race.

She did not sleep in that span.

“I tried, but it didn’t work,” Flanagan, the first U.S. female runner to win the five-borough, 50,000-runner event in 40 years, said Monday morning. “So, at 3 a.m., I was eating pizza, hanging out.”

Flanagan, a 36-year-old, four-time Olympian, upset three-time defending champion and world-record holder Mary Keitany at 11:48 a.m. on a dreary Sunday. She overcame perhaps the most difficult year of her decorated career in what may have been her final race (more on that below).

Nine hours later, Flanagan was back at the finish line to hand out medals to runners who took five times as long to cover the course than she did.

Flanagan was joined by other elites, including Meb Keflezighi, the 2009 NYC Marathon champ who ran his 26th and final marathon on Sunday.

Flanagan awoke Monday for another round of media — “Good Morning America,” “Live with Kelly and Ryan” — followed by a charity-check ceremony next to the finish line.

She spoke as hundreds of finishers stood in line to get their medals engraved.

“I do wish I could go run those last two miles without, like, the scary, daunting feeling of someone stalking me,” said Flanagan, who opened up a gap in the 24th mile and won by a comfortable 61 seconds over Keitany. “I was like, just don’t let it slip through your fingers. … I didn’t hear any footsteps.”

As soon as it felt safe, a few steps from the end, Flanagan let out an “f— yeah!” that was buzzworthy on social media.

“I’ve visualized that finish line, you don’t know how many times,” said Flanagan, who ran her second NYC Marathon, seven years after finishing second in her 26.2-mile debut in New York. “What would I do in that moment? Of course I did nothing of what I thought I would do.

“That [the profanity] wasn’t planned by any means. I could just sense no one was there. Then I felt like, OK, I can celebrate just a little bit and indulge in this awesome moment.”

Before that, Flanagan dug into a list she compiled before the race.

“Of things when I was leaning into that hurt, what was I going to think about,” she said. “I was thinking about the tragedies here in New York. I was thinking about how I wanted to make Meb proud. It was his last race. And I wanted to run and honor all the people that have helped me be here.”

Flanagan teased before the race that she might retire if she pulled off the upset victory, likening it to winning the Super Bowl and walking away.

“I don’t know what it feels like to be Tom Brady or anything, but it’s pretty epic,” she said Monday. “Imagine everyone has an individual goal in their lives that they’re striving for, potentially, and achieving that ultimate goal that seems audacious at times. That seems so far-fetched.”

Flanagan hasn’t had time to think about her future or discuss it with her coaches. She has barely looked at her phone.

“I just want to soak up what I’m doing right now,” she said. “My phone is literally buzzing in my pocket right now, and I don’t know what’s going on.

“I’m 36, I love what I do,” she said earlier on “Good Morning America.” “I’m very passionate about running, but there are other things in my life that I love. … There’s other ways I want to contribute to the sport. I want to teach young women how to eat well and how to take care of themselves. Yeah, I have other passions that are starting to bubble up.”

Flanagan, who with her husband fostered two teenage girls since Rio, will release her second co-authored cookbook — “Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow” — in August. Finding the inspiration to continue a running career in the meantime may be difficult.

“I’d have to really assess what’s going to drive me forward,” she said. “If I do continue to go forward, you have to have a lot of motivation to be in this sport. It’s an all-encompassing lifestyle. It’s not a nine-to-five. It’s literally every single day you’re making decisions. How can I be the best possible athlete? You don’t check in and check out.”

This was certainly Flanagan’s biggest career victory, in her 10th marathon, but was it her greatest achievement? She has an Olympic 10,000m silver medal from 2008.

“It’s hard to compare them,” she said. “But I feel like this has been a long, long process to get here. A lot of ups and downs and disappointments and some heartache. So, in a way, maybe this is more meaningful to me just because I feel like it’s been seven years of a lot of work and a lot of disappointments at times, wondering if I have what it takes. Almost feeling like a sense of really extreme validation yesterday, more so than maybe my Olympic medal. But they’re both treasured, just in different ways.”

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In Meb Keflezighi’s final marathon, he shares in the joy

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NEW YORK — There was a moment, about halfway through, when 42-year-old Meb Keflezighi thought he could win the final marathon of his career.

“I knew there was going to be a big deciding factor at one point,” Keflezighi said afterward, referencing his time in a leading group of about 12 men as the 26.2-mile race snaked from Queens into Manhattan.

Keflezighi, the only person to win an Olympic medal and the New York City and Boston Marathons (in 2009 and 2014, respectively), then began to feel his age.

He faded about 15 seconds behind the pack in the 20th mile entering the Bronx and another minute and a half in the 23rd as Central Park came into view.

“When the turnover is fast, I just can’t do it,” he said. “There’s no way. … I stopped four times probably, four or five times, same old usual thing. When you are 42 years old and competing against the best of the best in the world, your body is not right.”

Keflezighi was 11th in 2:15:29, 4:35 behind Kenyan winner Geoffrey Kamworor, ending an incredible career that included four Olympics. Kamworor was born in 1992, when Keflezighi was a California high school junior.

Watch Keflezighi’s finish here.

NYC MARATHON: Full results | Flanagan ends U.S. drought, may retire

A small percentage — if that — of knowledgable track fans would have predicted that Keflezighi would win Sunday. Eleventh place in his 11th New York City Marathon, he’ll take it.

In typical fashion, Keflezighi spent the last uphill half-mile in Central Park fighting the grimace and acknowledging cheering fans. Waves. Thumbs-up. Blown kisses. Fist pumps.

He collapsed in exhaustion at the finish line, sprawled out on the pavement where he made his marathon debut 15 years ago and swore he’d never run 26.2 miles again.

Keflezighi lay there for five seconds. A man dressed as a race official and his wife and daughters came over to drag him up.

“Today was a struggle, but to get to that finish line was a magical moment,” said Keflezighi, joined by dozens of family members in Manhattan this week. “It was a beautiful victory lap, you could say.”

Keflezighi knew that he would race Sunday with the support of thousands of fans along the route.

What he didn’t know was that perhaps his biggest source of inspiration would be Shalane Flanagan. Also a four-time Olympian, she became the first U.S. female runner to win New York since Keflezighi was a 2-year-old in Eritrea.

“I heard that she won at [mile] 24, and I think I did a jump with both hands in the air,” Keflezighi said.

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