Kyle Robidoux is the first blind athlete to start in the Western States Run, which is a 100-mile trail race filled with steep slopes, peaking roots, and even snow. His love for sports has been in him since childhood, but it wasn’t always a passion he followed. Like many people who lose their sight over time, he found himself losing motivation to be active, which was costing him his health.
Growing up, Kyle played baseball, football, soccer, and even started hitting the ski slopes at age 11. As an active kid, he tried to play any sport he could. At the age of 11, Kyle was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, which is a hereditary degenerative eye disease that decreases your usable vision over time.
In his later twenties, Kyle stopped being active for the most part due to his loss of vision. Eventually, going to the doctor meant being told his health is on the decline because of his inactivity. With a two-year-old at home and a family history of illness, Kyle knew he had to get back outside and get active.
Kyle started walking at first and eventually began to run. Now, Kyle has lost over 60 pounds, and all of his health markers like his cholesterol and blood pressure are at healthy levels. Kyle takes this love for running a step further and doesn’t just do it to get fit. Kyle is running several races a year, all of them at least a hundred miles.
To get prepared for the Western States Run, Kyle doesn’t have much to do because he keeps his body finely tuned. Because he is continually going on runs or participating in races, he doesn’t really need to warm up because he only cools down to give his body rest in his own offseason before he’s back out running again.
With only 3-4% field of vision, Kyle ran the Western States Run after doing three 100-mile races and a 120-mile race earlier this year. With a team of sighted guides, Kyle was able to maneuver through the difficult terrain of the trail.
“They call out the obstacles that I’m going around so things like roots, rocks, and even going up a sharp hill… for the Western States, the first 7 or 8 miles was mostly snow, so they’re calling out where the snow pack[s were].”
While it wasn’t snowing while he was running his race, Kyle did have to deal with snow on the ground. The race starts at Squaw Valley, which is over 6,000 ft in elevation. The first three miles were straight uphill with a mix of dirt and snow.
“For this race, I felt like the first three miles were fine because although there was snow, we were essentially hiking and running up a ski trail. So it was snowy but the trail itself was even while we were going uphill. But when I got to the top of the ridge, I probably fell 12-20 times between miles 4 and 15.”
Kyle is clearly not one who is easily swayed, because even though he fell between 12 to 20 times, he still kept running. While some may be fearful of the uneven terrain, the challenge is Kyle’s favorite part.
There are rocks, snow, uneven terrain, and roots, which is one of the biggest challenges Kyle faces in races. But this isn’t considered a bad thing, he prefers a challenge. He likes to try new things and figure things out.
“I think the terrain is always challenging for me, which is why I like trail running. I love trail running because one, it’s outdoors in the woods… and the terrain is challenging for me depending on how technical it is, how many roots and rocks, what the climbing is like… I do prefer a challenge, I love trail running because it’s a nice mix of running hard and doing some hiking. The community is incredibly supportive.”
The community was absolutely the biggest contender for the best thing about running a race blind. While some may find it challenging to meet people who can either aid them in their sport or have the same challenges as they do, Kyle is a part of a running community that connects sighted runners to blind runners all over the country.
Kyle has a group of sighted guides that he trains within Boston, but it is difficult for him to bring them to races all around the nation. If he’s on vacation, it’s also not easy to have his sighted guides tag along on a whim. Luckily, there is a program that has been developed to help runners like Kyle who need someone to run with, and he is one of the people who runs the website.
Kyle works for the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired. As a part of his job, he runs United in Stride which is the solution to helping blind runners find an aid on the go. Being someone who also benefits from this service, Kyle is very passionate about getting blind athletes aid that they need.
By using his company’s program, Kyle is able to find a sighted aid to run with him all over the country, no matter where his races are. As someone who spends a lot of time traveling, this has saved Kyle a lot of time and helped him get involved with a fantastic community.
Kyle has reached a level of athleticism to where he is a sponsored athlete ambassador with Clif Bar, Topo Athletic, Ultimate Direction, and Athletic Brewing Company. We are looking forward to more races from Kyle in the future and many more firsts.
Images used with special permissions from Clif Bars and Company.