Boulder runner Amelia Dickerson ran at the Cherry Creek Sneak in Denver in April and noticed that for an amateur runner, her time of 20:47 in the 5K was pretty fast. Her friend Deb Conley, who's also founder of the United States Association of Blind Athletes' local club Lending Sight, suggested she run in an officially sanctioned track meet to get her time recorded.
In July, she ran a 21:25 in the 5K at the Boulder Road Runners All Comers track meet, guided by Tom O'Banion. Then last Thursday, Dickerson ran a 20:38 at another all-comers meet, this time guided by former University of Colorado runner Kenyon Neuman.
As far as Conley and Dickerson know, she now holds the American record in the 5K for blind athletes.
When she's not running, Dickerson tutors at the University of Colorado and works at a nonprofit in Denver.
How did you get into running?
I started running when I was in middle school, and then I ran high school track and cross country. I was not very fast (laughing). I've run off and on, just when I could find people to run with. The past two years I finally had a chance to run regularly.
How often and where do you run?
I live in South Boulder so I run along Lehigh and then Greenbriar over to Fairview. But also when I have more time I like to run up Shanahan Ridge up to Mesa Trail and then back down.
How does having a guide running with you work?
The way I do it -- and some people do it differently -- I hold on to a tether and they hold on to the other end of a tether, a little string or rope or whatever. I've had times when I forgot my tether and we've used a shoelace to do it. I hang on to that and a lot of movements get communicated through that tether. I can feel the turns but it's also really good when a guide can tell me 'Speed bump coming up' or 'Curb' or 'We're going to make a sharp turn.'
Can you explain why you have to wear a mask when you compete?
There are categories for level of blindness in competition. There are three of them for track and field. I fall into the category of most blind, which is B1 or T11. B1/T11 is totally blind. I do have some light perception in one of my eyes, so I have to wear the eye shades to make it so I have absolutely no sight and I'm on the same level with everyone in my category. I don't actually have any sight I use when I run, but it's a rule to make sure that's the case.
What are your goals in running?
I'm going to run the New York City Marathon, so I'm going to build up some miles there. I would like to keep seeing what I can do on the 5K. A lot of it is seeing where I am on the different distances and then once I have more miles, training for the marathon. Then I'd like to start doing some speed work.
What does your week look like, training-wise?
Almost every day I do about five miles, and then I've been getting connected with some groups. On Sunday mornings there's a group where I can get in about nine miles in the morning.