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Marla Runyan became an international star in 2000 as the first-ever legally blind track athlete to compete in the Olympic Games.
In July 2000, she overcame weeks of being hobbled by knee problems to make her first Olympic Team in the 1,500 meters. Runyan finished as the top American at the 2002 New York City Marathon to post the second-fastest debut time ever by an American woman. Runyan’s performance in New York equals the best finish by an American woman in the five-borough race since Kim Jones in 1996. A three-time U.S. 5,000m champion on the track, Runyan also won U.S. road titles at 5 km and 10 km in 2002.
At the age of 9, Runyan was diagnosed with Stargardt’s disease, a juvenile form of macular degeneration, the leading cause of legal blindness in the U.S. Her vision has deteriorated to 20/400 in both eyes classifying her as legally blind. As a child, Runyan competed in gymnastics and soccer until she just couldn’t see the ball anymore. She then started participating in track and field, where she excelled in high jump in high school and picked up the heptathlon in college at San Diego State. Twice nationally ranked in the top 10 in the heptathlon, she placed 10th at the 1996 Olympic Trials.
She disappeared from the track scene for two years after the Trials, having knee and foot surgery, and reappeared in 1999 in dramatic fashion by winning the 1500m at the Pan American Games. She competed in the 1999 World Outdoor Championships, where she placed 10th in the final. In 2000, she won the 3,000m, her first national indoor title.
While Runyan no longer competes In Paralympic competitions, her performances have earned her 10 World Records In track and field events and the marathon In the B3 classification.
In 2001, Runyan co-wrote and released her autobiography No Finish Line: My Life As I See It.