Blair McConnell was born with retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic eye disease that causes cells in the retina to break down slowly over time, resulting in progressive vision loss.
But the 58-year-old didn’t let that stop him completing the 42km New York City Marathon in 5 hr 52 min 1 sec.
“It was an absolutely incredible experience,” McConnell said.
“When you are running with 51,000 people and supporters (spectators) up to 2.5 million . . . it still gives me shivers.”
He travelled to the Big Apple as one of seven athletes with Achilles International New Zealand.
Achilles aims to provide people with disabilities the opportunity to participate in mainstream athletics, and matches them with volunteer guides.
McConnell started his running journey about five years ago and had planned to do the marathon in 2020, but it was cancelled due to the pandemic.
The New York City Marathon is the first full marathon he has completed, having done a number of half-marathons.
McConnell said the emotion did not set in straight after he crossed the finish line.
“It took a little while before the emotion of it actually feeling like I’ve achieved what I set out to do to kick in.
“I’m just really happy to finish something I started many years ago.”
The course traverses the city starting in Staten Island, heading through Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx, finishing in Central Park.
McConnell said the crowd was overwhelming, with quiet sections as he would cross the bridges between islands.
“You’d get over the crest of a bridge and hear a roar in front of you, and you’d realise it’s the crowd.
“It was like running into a stadium at several points of the marathon.
“It was overwhelming.”