Finishing The Race

Senior Alex France runs cross country with guide runner

Megan Joyce, Staff Writer

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Senior Alex France started cross country off his freshman year running without restraints. But entering the new season, he is a little more hesitant.

France has retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative disease that causes visual impairment and prevents him from seeing objects in the middle range of what would be his field of vision.

“When you lose your eyesight you kind of lose your momentum almost. You don’t go full force all the time because you’re afraid you’re going to hit something,” France said.

France’s vision has been getting steadily worse since his diagnosis in 2014, and there’s no cure. Yet France hasn’t slowed down. Since 2014 his times have gotten better, and he didn’t consider quitting until this year. Even then the thoughts subsided quickly.

“It’s just one of those things, just another obstacle to get around or something. I’m going to have to live with it anyway so you know, might as well get used to it and move on,” France said.

France has been running for six years and was diagnosed a few months after joining the cross country team, and this year he decided with his coach and parents that he needed a guide runner.

Guide runner Tim Grundmayer runs ahead of France, wearing a bright shirt that is easy for France to follow, and yells out warnings about obstacles that France might not see. By preparing France for the ground ahead of him, Grundmayer allows France to run to his full potential.

“The fact that he’s totally okay with having a guide runner and putting himself out there is so impressive and we are so proud of him every time,” cross country coach Emily Janda said.

At first, the cross country team wasn’t sure they would be able to find someone available at all practices and sporadic meet times, until Grundmayer heard about the job through a friend that ran for MN.

“We run a lot of miles out there so we get to know each other pretty well. I’ve learned to not let anything be used as an excuse,” Grundmayer said.

France doesn’t know what the future holds, but he is ready for it. He could go blind any day, or never, but he isn’t scared because he has people to help him.

“I like the atmosphere, just the environment, the people that are around cross country, they’re very bright,” France said.

So France continues to propel himself forward. He is already looking into athletic scholarships and knows he’s going to run in college.

“I just like running because it’s healthy and there’s a lot of positives to running. It’s something you can do for the rest of your life too,” France said.

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