Robert Swain doesn’t let blindness stand in the way of running the AJC Peachtree Road Race

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Robert Swain doesn’t let blindness stand in the way of running the AJC Peachtree Road Race

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Alex Makrides
Dan Toney (Buckhead, L) and Rose Marie Inserni (Buckhead, R) help Robert Swain (Atlanta, M) run the AJC Peachtree Road. (Alex Makrides)

In December 2016, Robert Swain heard an encouraging shout from one of his neighbors, Rose Marie Inserni.

“Why don’t you run the Peachtree Road Race, Robert,” Inserni said. 

It was difficult for Swain to say no. He had been working on his cardiovasular endurance despite his doctor’s warnings for the past couple of years and thought “why the heck not.” He was in shape and ready to run, but something stood in his way. Swain couldn’t see. 

He has been without his sight since 2013, but on Independence Day, this aliment wouldn’t define him, as Swain completed the AJC Peachtree Road Race with the help of Inserni and her husband, Dan Toney.

“See. Blind man can run the race,” Swain said with a smile after he crossed the finish line.

Inserni, who also helped coach Swain, held one end of a rope leading Swain through the 6.2-mile course. Swain held the other end of the rope in one hand, and his white cane to help navigate in the other hand. 

His coach would warn him about the conditions of the upcoming pavement and guide him around any obstacles along the course. Swain also wore a sign taped to the back of his shirt which said, “I am blind, so don’t run into me.”

Inserni helped Swain train for the Peachtree Road Race every Saturday, as the two would run on the Chattahoochee River trail by their house. 

Even though the training was really helpful, Swain said nothing could have prepared him for “cardiac hill.”

“It surprised me,” Swain said. “At mile-marker four, whenever (Inserni) would say something to me. I just kept saying ‘yes dear’ even though I wanted to say something else.”

Swain jokingly said his plans to race again are completely contingent upon if Inserni is willing to put up leading him around again. 

 

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