By Aliyah Kovner
Campus News Reporter
Christian Alvarado loves to run. Marathons, to be exact. And he does it without Faith.
Faith is his seeing-eye dog. That’s because Alvarado, a first-year at Oakes College, is blind.
Alvarado began running in 2005, looking for something to challenge him. He has since run five marathons and is anticipating his sixth, the New York Marathon, this Sunday.
“[My parents] thought I was crazy,” Alvarado said. “They still want to convince me to stop doing it.”
Despite skeptical parents, Alvarado has met his goals with success and an amazing attitude. In the beginning, even his sponsor company, Achilles Track, had its doubts. He was not even a runner when he undertook his first training. He was just interested and determined.
“It came into my mind that I wanted to do a marathon,” Alvarado said. “Trying to do my first marathon, when I was first talking to my sponsors, they were telling me, ‘You’re not going to be able to do it.’ So when I was on mile 24, I called my sponsor, and told him I only had two miles to go.”
His trainers were won over.
“The Achilles Track Club (ATC) was established in 1983 to encourage disabled people to participate in long-distance running with the general public,” his sponsor’s official website reads. “We are an international, nonprofit organization that provides support, training and technical expertise to runners at all levels.”
The ATC pays for Alvarado’s registration fees and housing for the marathons he attends. The New York Marathon will be his first out-of-state competition. Alvarado will fly to New York, stay two nights and fly back, arriving in time for class on Monday. A typical proposed literature major, he is not.
The Bay Tree Bookstore has also contributed, donating UC Santa Cruz exercise clothing for Alvarado to wear in the chilly New York weather.
“One of the TAPS drivers was talking about it. He said this young man was training for a marathon in a cold area,” Baytree director Bob McCampbell said. “We thought it would be nice if he could wear the clothes while he ran. I think it’s quite an accomplishment for a blind person to run a marathon, and it reflects well on UCSC that one of our students would attempt such an incredible thing.”
Others share this sentiment.
“It is a great example to all the runners who don’t want to run because they’re tired or just lazy,” Kevin Ray, a second-year and track enthusiast, said of Alvarado’s goals. “This guy is blind and he’s training for a marathon.”
Alvarado has experienced considerable obstacles while pursuing his passion. A marathon is 26.2 grueling miles — his guide dog isn’t even up for the challenge.
“When I first went to training to get a guide dog, I asked, ‘Could she ever do a marathon?’” Alvarado said. “And they were like, ‘No. No way.’”
Many find his feats impossible or even dangerous — like the police, who made him stop at mile 21 of his Los Angeles training. Alvarado was trying to finish, fighting such intense pain that he could not hold his back straight.
Yet Alvarado continues to push himself further.
“I have actually been wanting to do a super-marathon,” he said. “Fifty-four miles.”
Alvarado’s only true critic is himself. Running a marathon is difficult enough for people who can see, but Alvarado is modest. He notes that his best time — six hours, 48 minutes — doesn’t compare to those of professional runners. Alvarado runs for love of the sport.
“It just feels, at the end, after working so hard, like you have accomplished something big,” he said. “I guess I just like that feeling.”
In less than a week, Alvarado will be battling a fierce East Coast fall day as he treks the long route through the city. It might rain, and there will be about 50,000 people and lots of music in immediate proximity. These elements will no doubt create a hectic and tangled atmosphere of sounds and touch, a confusing environment for a blind contestant.
Alvarado takes it all in stride.
He said, “I’ll just keeping doing it until I can’t.”