BOISE, Idaho — In just a few weeks, Tracy Wasden will lace up her shoes to run the Boston Marathon.
The 43-year-old mother of four has participated in the famous race before, but this will be the first time she runs it as a guide for a blind runner.
Fifteen sighted runners, including Wasden, volunteered to be guides for a dozen visually impaired runners — some completely blind — through the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired’s Team with a Vision.
Running for a cause “has put new meaning into running,” said Wasden, who like other so-called charitable runners at the Boston race must raise $5,000 for the Massachusetts association.
To help reach that goal and to increase awareness about the abilities of the visually impaired, Wasden and friend Kaidree Christensen organized the Gold Rush Half Marathon/10K/5K last weekend in Eagle, which raised $3,000.
With the help of a small army of volunteers — including dozens of students from Rocky Mountain High School’s Honor Society — the race went off without a hitch. About 180 people participated.
One of them was Colby Morgan.
The 22-year-old Army veteran believes a series of pre-deployment vaccines robbed him of his vision a couple of years ago. He lost 90 percent of his vision in less than a week.
“I’m legally blind, but I usually say I’m visually impaired,” he said. He said he can tell the direction of the sun or a bright light.
Morgan leads an active lifestyle. The Boise State University student recently decided to pursue an engineering degree, rather than one in business or music.
He started a Boise “goal ball” team — think dodge ball for the blind — and the team recently joined the Northwest Goal Ball League. Players try to stop balls (with bells inside) from going into goals.
Morgan runs daily with his wife, Kaylee.
“Most people are surprised when I tell them that I do anything athletic,” he said.
He suffered a couple of falls — nothing serious — when he and his wife first started running a year ago. When he heard about Wasden and the Gold Rush race, he wanted to be part of it.
“Getting visually impaired people active and giving them different opportunities, that was really exciting,” Morgan said. “That’s what I believe in, and I want to give visually impaired people a lot of opportunities.”
Morgan wore a bright vest and a “blind runner” sign on his back to help other runners understand they need to give him a wider berth. He ran 10 kilometers in about 63 minutes.
Wasden used the race as an opportunity to get a better understanding of what it’s like to run when you can’t see what’s in front of you. She ran the half-marathon — 13.1 miles — with a blindfold on. Her friend and longtime running partner Julie Freeman got her through unscathed.
Wasden was sore the next day, she said.
“I was leaning back instead of forward,” she said. “I tripped and almost fell flat, but Julie caught me.”
She learned the importance of trusting her guide. “This was good for me to know,” she said. “I wanted to know more about obstacles.”
Wasden is grant manager for the Vermont-based Gibney Family Foundation, a nonprofit that helps blind people and others visually impaired founded by her grandfather. She has been running about 10 years and has completed seven marathons, including Boston’s in 2011.
Being a guide entails providing a lot of verbal cues describing the course ahead. Some runners like to be tethered — attached to their guide by a strap from wrist to wrist, hand to elbow or waist to waist.
In Boston, she’ll be paired with Diane Berberian, a 55-year-old Florida triathlete who is legally blind. They have never met.
They’ve communicated by phone and email, and Wasden will be by Berberian’s side, talking her through course.
“Someone once paced me in a race, and it helped me focus and helped keep me on course,” said Wasden. “With my eyes, she can stay focused and stay on course.”