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Visually impaired runner takes on the Boilermaker 15K

Ben Birnell
Sports writer
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Posted 7/10/22

William Smith loves a good challenge. So, the 57-year-old Gloversville man — who is visually impaired — figured one of the best challenges would be to take on Utica’s premier summer …

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Visually impaired runner takes on the Boilermaker 15K

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UTICA — William Smith loves a good challenge.

So, the 57-year-old Gloversville man — who is visually impaired — figured one of the best challenges would be to take on Utica’s premier summer event Sunday in the Boilermaker 15K Road Race with thousands of others. 

It wast the first time he participated in the 15K that winds through Utica streets. He previously participated in the 5K, which starts on the Burrstone Road bridge, with his guide dog, Ed. 

“He can’t run the 15K. It is too hot for him,” said Smith, pointing to Ed following Sunday’s event. 

He found a different partner in friend Lisa Swedick, of Johnstown. It was the second time the pair competed together as they previously participated in a triathlon in the Lake George area. 

“People say about blindness and everything, ‘oh, you can’t do that.’ I love (overcoming) that,” Smith said. 

Smith said his goal in the 9.3-mile race was one hour, 15 minutes. 

However, his brother, who ran the Boilermaker 24 times told him that finishing in that time would not be possible. Swedick also said she didn’t think they would reach that goal, either.

For comparison, many of the elite runners finished the 15K in under 50 minutes Sunday. With help from cool weather and no humidity, elite runner Jemal Yimer Mekonnen set the event record with a time of 42:38. 

“The weather was perfect,” said Smith, who was sporting an Ironman hat and sunglasses. “I’m glad I’m not running into the warmer weather (in the afternoon)."

The 45th Boilermaker moved back to its traditional second Sunday in July after altered events in 2020 and 2021. More than 5,800 people finished the 15K. 

“It was great,” Swedick said with a smile.

Smith and Swedick ended up crossing the finish line together in 1 hour, 43 minutes. Smith said he plans to participate in the 15K again in the future.

Smith said he enjoyed hearing the crowds encourage runners throughout the course. 

“I had runners cheering me on, like, ‘go blind runner!’ and stuff like that,” Smith said. “(The Boilermaker) was nice overall.” 

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