Warren Knight, a native of Philadelphia, who lost his eyesight due to glaucoma, will compete in part of Achilles’ first Resilience Relay, a 650-mile marathon celebrating athletes with disabilities.
At 53, Chestnut Hill resident Warren Knight achieved several feats in his first three years of running: he completed the Broad Street Run and the Philadelphia Marathon two years in a row, ran several international races. and was named 2018 athlete of the year by local running group, Philly achilles. And now he’s replacing Philly in a new long-distance relay stretching from North Carolina to New York.
And all that Knight accomplished after losing his vision in 2014.
Knight, from Mount Airy, spent his fairly active youth, rollerblading and biking in his neighborhood, and running cross country and track in high school. But seven years ago, when Knight was in his forties, he started seeing tiny floaters every time he opened his eyes. After several doctor’s appointments, Knight learned he had developed glaucoma. “The disease progressed quickly,” he says. “Before I knew it, I was blind.”
Shortly thereafter, Knight went to the Colorado Center for the Blind with the support of the National Federation of the Blind. There he “learned to be blind”, training his mobility in relation to his vision loss. Knight says he also spent time hiking in the mountains and kayaking, two activities that ignited his former passion for physical activity. So when a friend from his country mentioned that they were running with Philly Achilles – the chapter of Achille International, a global organization supporting athletes with disabilities – Knight decided to follow in his friend’s footsteps, joining the local group when he returned to Philadelphia in January 2018. “I hadn’t run since Ronald Reagan was president, but it was was the best decision of my life, ”he says.
Last February, when Knight heard about the inauguration of Achilles International Achilles Resilience Relay – a 650 mile run / walk / wheel on the east coast – he knew he had to participate. “I made a lot of friends from coast to coast through Achilles International, and we still put down roots, even from afar,” says Knight. “I knew that the Resilience Relay would be a great opportunity to connect with my community, and also to support the military veterans who participate as part of the Achilles Freedom Team. “
The event, which officially begins this Saturday, begins in Charlotte, NC, passes through Philly 11 days later, and ends July 10 in Central Park. The entire relay will be covered by more than 150 athletes affiliated with Achilles and their guides, each of whom will participate in a part of the course. Along the way, the athletes will receive and pass a baton to represent and celebrate “the inclusion, perseverance and unifying power of sport,” according to Emily Glasser, President and CEO of Achilles International. Knight is to receive the witness at Logan Square on the morning of July 7 and pass him three to five miles later.
Knight says the upcoming relay is a testament to not only his journey, but also the accomplishments and endurance of other people with disabilities. “One of the main things I learned when I was in Colorado is the importance of living the life you want, no matter what,” he says. “Unfortunately, people with disabilities can often find themselves restricted due to support or accessibility issues. But Philly Achilles and Achilles International have been tremendously supportive of me and the others – their guides are there 24/7 no matter the weather. I feel blessed because of it.