It’s impossible to imagine what it would be like to have a disability for many. If you’ve been able to hear your entire life, being deaf may be an extremely abstract concept, but despite that, people with disabilities manage to do incredible things. Dan Berlin is one of those people, but he doesn’t consider his blindness a disability, but merely an inconvenience. He hasn’t allowed his inability to see to limit what he can achieve as a runner, and his inspirational message was heard loud and clear at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon on October 8th.
Hailing from his home town of Fort Collins, Colorado, Berlin is a dedicated runner who recently completed the harrowing 46-mile Rim to Rim to Rim trek. That wasn’t a typo – while many may prefer to simply tour Grand Canyon National Park, Berlin ran from the South Rim to the North Rim and back again. This is seen as a titanic achievement by many extreme marathoners, and Berlin is believed to have been the first blind runner to ever successfully make the journey along with his four teammates. The 46-mile run took a grand total of about 28 hours.
“I feel great. Achieving this is an amazing accomplishment for all five of us. There were some wonderful moments and there were definitely dark moments. You just don’t know what your body is going to do,” Berlin said after completing his run.
“My main thing that drives me with this, you find anybody, blind or not, you can go beyond your own perceived limitations. It (blindness) doesn’t have to be limiting. It can be an expanding situation, to really enjoy doing some great things. A lot of wonderful things have come about this (my blindness). … This run wouldn’t have quite the same meaning without a team to depend on each other.”
Berlin wasn’t always blind. In fact, he lived to his mid-30s with functioning eyes, but as he approached this age, his degenerative cone-rod retinal dystrophy took the last of his vision. His run and ongioing campaign continue to fight to prevent others losing their vision to the same debilitating illness, and so far, he’s raised over $7,500 for Denver’s Blind Institute of Technology and the Foundation Fighting Blindness.
The team behind Berlin’s 46-mile run consisted of Charles Scott, a long-time friend of Berlin’s, Alison Berna, and Brad Graff, each guiding Berlin, providing encouragement, and keeping an eye out for his safety. The path they took was dangerous, sometimes featuring sheer drops off of tall cliffs, and the path was even longer and more challenging than the team was originally prepared for.
In the end, perseverance, hard work, friendship, and determination have shown us that nothing can hold back the human spirit in its pursuit of new achievements and success. Accomplishing what many thought was impossible, Berlin will always be remembered as one of the most dedicated runners to ever grace the Grand Canyon National Park.
Are you a runner, and have you ever thought about taking on this grueling challenge or even made an attempt? Share your experiences in the comments!