By Cecilla Chan, GSN Managing Editor
It’s been tough lately for Ryan Davies, who buried his 3-year-old son Grayson last year.
But dealing with life’s adversities is what the 44-year-old Gilbert man does best by throwing on a pair of running shoes.
“Running is just like life,” said Davies, who was born with aniridia – an absence of the iris in both eyes that rendered him partially blind.
“When you start running and like life you encounter some challenges that can wear you out, but you keep on focusing on the positives and goals and just keep running. In life, you keep moving forward even if things are tough.”
On Jan. 20, Davies will be running the 2019 Humana Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon. He’s doing the event’s half marathon race as a training run for the full 26.2-mile Boston Marathon in April.
He qualified for the prestigious Boston race’s Visually Impaired Division by running the Buckeye Marathon in 2017 with a time of 4:33:12. Visually impaired runners need a qualifying time of five hours or less on a certified marathon course for this division.
A total 53 visually impaired runners have registered so far for the 2019 Boston Marathon and 55 are anticipated, according to Chris Lotsbom, spokesman for the Boston Athletic Association, which manages the event.
“Runners with vision impairments will be provided an optional seeding accommodation among the waves of runners, but will not start early,” he said.
Davies took up running as a youth in Blue Springs, Missouri, with the encouragement of an uncle.
“There’s lot of up-and-down hills, lot of hilly country and basically running with him, if you can take those hills and hang with those hills, you could pretty much run anything,” said Davies, who’s run nearly 10 marathons and races of all distances.
Running helps relieve stress and helped him cope with being bullied in high school and college, he said.
“You’re running and looking at the beautiful environment and working off the negativity of bullying and the vision loss,” said Davies, whose 7-year-old daughter, Makenzie, also was born with the same vision loss.
“I can see a bit, enough to walk around a room and do some things,” Davies said. “In a room I can see you, but I can’t tell who you are. I can’t drive, (but) could I drive in an emergency? I could, but I can’t read the signs of where to go.”
His limited vision doesn’t prevent him from running five to six days a week on his own and without a guide in races. But he’s had to deal with some hurdles – such as running the wrong way in a 5K race because the course signs were too low to the ground.
And, there’s been times, he’s tripped over the lip of a sidewalk or got his head scratched by low-hanging branches.
“So, I’ve had my share of tripping,” said Davies, who’s learned to pick his feet up higher as he crosses a street and get back onto a sidewalk.
Although his wife, Kayla, doesn’t run, she is a big supporter. The couple moved to Arizona two years ago for Kayla’s job and to seek better care for their son.
Grayson was born with a rare genetic disorder called myotubular myopathy, which affects the skeletal muscle tissue. For a while, doctors in Missouri didn’t know what was wrong with his child, Davies said.
His son, who loved all things Mickey Mouse and superheroes, died on Jan. 24, 2018.
This will be the second year for Davies to run the Humana Rock ’n’ Roll’s half marathon. In 2018, he ran it in 2:07:44. This year’s race he is more motivated to run it for his son because he is not able to, Davies said.
“He was so strong despite his condition and it being so uncomfortable for him at times. He showed absolute resilience, and I want to keep on running for him,” he said. “I want to look up at the heavens and know he is with me as I run.”