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Jeff Kolpack, Published May 15 2012

Scott to run to raise awareness for eye disease

FARGO – The plan for E.J. Scott is to run 12 marathons in 12 months. That in itself is a challenge that not many runners take on.

Now add doing all 12 blindfolded and you get the picture.

“So far, so good,” Scott said. “Mentally, it’s been more taxing on me, maybe more than physically. I’m learning that the physical and mental feed each other.”

People all across the country are learning a lot from Scott’s quest. He’s doing it in support of the Choroideremia Research Foundation, which supports a degenerative eye disease that is slowly taking Scott’s own eyesight.

The Fargo Marathon on Saturday will be his fifth.

A lot is going on with choroideremia. Treatments are progressing. Human trials are in their early phases in England and are slated to start soon in the U.S. and Canada, said foundation executive director Ty Herring.

“E.J. has taken the project and is bringing world attention to it,” Herring said. “E.J. has been invaluable to us.”

There are a few MVPs in the project. Scott’s girlfriend and actress Deborah Ann Woll has been front and center, “my backbone,” Scott said.

The reason for running blindfolded is two-fold: Sunlight can advance Scott’s genetic condition, which also has inflicted his brother and nephew. And then there is the awareness factor for the public.

The goal is to raise $12,000 per race and $144,000 total for curechm.org.

“If it gets more attention, more people talk about it and more money goes toward it,” Scott said. “And then sooner there will be a treatment and cure. The way the disease works, time is of the essence. The more time goes by, the more blind people get.”

Scott is legally blind and has lost most of his peripheral vision. He can walk around, usually with the aid of a cane as a precaution, but cannot drive.

He did his first marathon blindfolded in 2010. To help navigate the course, he had one hand on a guide running in front of him, but over the course of 26.2 miles, it became evident there has to be a better way.

His arm got too tired leaning on the guide.

He did a few races holding the forearm of the guide. The latest technique is to use a wrapped up towel with Scott holding one end and the guide the other.

His last race, the Go! St. Louis Marathon on April 15, took 5 hours, 10 minutes. Then Los Angeles resident is hoping to take advantage of the flat course in Fargo to finish somewhere around five hours.

“He’s been amazing,” said Cory MacDonald, the operations manager for the foundation. “We’ve just seen a huge growth in publicity for us.”


Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia


If you go

Thursday: Half-mile youth run, 6:30 p.m.; One-mile youth run, 7 p.m.

Friday: 5K, 6:30 p.m.

Saturday: 10K, 7 a.m.; Half-marathon, 7:30 a.m.; Wheelchair, 8:10 a.m.; Marathon, 8:15 a.m.