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Running blind

David Kuhn (left), a blind runner who is raising money for cystic fibrosis, ran with Echo Press Run Club members Celeste Edenloff and Eric Morken at the Jefferson High School athletic field Thursday. (Al Edenloff/Echo Press)

Imagine running 20 miles a day, every day for a year and a half.

Now imagine doing it blind.

That’s the mission of David Kuhn, a 62-year-old blind grandfather who passed through Alexandria last week.

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His goal is to run 11,000 miles, the approximate equivalent of the perimeter of the U.S., while raising $500,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

His inspiration: his 12-year-old granddaughter, who has cystic fibrosis.

Kuhn travels alone, relying on the kindness of fellow runners, pastors and the communities he passes through.

For his Alexandria stop, August 10-17, Kuhn’s run coordinator contacted Sara Stadtherr, director of Alexandria Hotel and Hospitality, and she sent out emails, asking for volunteers to run with Kuhn and get him to and from his hotel at the Super 8.

Groups and individuals quickly stepped forward – a local running club, Runners Of Unusual Speed (ROUS); media representatives, including the Echo Press Run Club; Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce Director Coni McKay; Alexandria School Board member Pam Carlson; and a host of everyday runners who didn’t hesitate to support Kuhn’s effort.

Those who run alongside of Kuhn hold a short, knotted rope between them and warn Kuhn of any upcoming obstacles or changes in the path’s surface.

Kuhn’s sense of humor shines through as a runner. When asked what his pace was, he responded, “ABF – anything but fast.”

Kuhn started to lose his eyesight after a crash with a drunk driver when he was 29. Today, he can only see what he calls “ghost images,” or vague variations in contrast.

But he didn’t let the setback stop him.

He’s participated in 24 marathons across the country and plans to enter the Ironman Wisconsin in September.

Kuhn started his 11,000-mile run in May. His route will take him from Seattle, Washington to Bangor, Maine to Jacksonville, Florida to San Diego, California and finally, back to Seattle.

Kuhn keeps a blog of his progress titled “It’s All I Can Do.” On the back of the promotional cards he hands out is a message: “Together, we will drive one more nail into the coffin of cystic fibrosis.”

Before arriving in Alexandria, Kuhn had logged more than 1,300 miles. He made stops in four cities in Montana, four in North Dakota, and then in Minnesota, Moorhead and Fergus Falls.

Alexandria was the smallest city in his venture so far, but he said it was a memorable one.

“It’s a great town,” he said. “The people I met were all runners. Everyone knows everyone.”

Besides running, Kuhn soaked up some of Alexandria’s uniqueness, visiting local hot spots, having his photo taken with Big Ole, running on the Central Lakes Trail, appearing on KXRA’s Open Line program, and meeting Minnesota Senator Torrey Westrom, who is also blind, at the Douglas County Fair.

And then it was on to another town, Minneapolis, and another 20-mile daily challenge to fight cystic fibrosis.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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