Pam & Maida
- Allison Hartz
If anyone is born a runner, it’s Pam McGonigle. She was also born with visual impairment, but that never slowed her down. She was hooked on the sport after winning her first race in 6th grade and went on to compete at the Paralympics, winning gold in the 3,000m at the Barcelona Games in 1992. Pam continued racing, traveling the world and representing the United States at the Games in 1996, 2000, and 2004.
During her running career, Pam relied on human guides as training partners, but eventually, finding guides for consistent training became too difficult. Although she wasn’t ready to retire, Pam felt that without guides, she couldn’t continue competing at the highest level. So, in 2005, she called it quits.
In 2008, Pam got her first dog from Guiding Eyes for the Blind. When her guide dog was ready to retire, Guiding Eyes asked her if she wanted to participate in its new Running Guides Program. Pam said yes, but she was hesitant. Her love for running had not diminished during the twelve years since she had retired, and she was afraid to get her hopes up that running could be a significant part of her life again.
When she met Maida, an exuberant German Shepherd, Pam was nervous and quiet – because she was overcome with emotion. Within two miles, she knew Maida was a perfect match. Pam had remained active over the years and returned to running as if she had never stopped – the only difference was that now, she had Maida by her side. When they ran together, it was like they were made for each other: “We ran under 8-minute pace for five miles, and that was conservative,” Pam said.
On one of their early runs together, Pam could feel Maida pulling her forward, pushing the pace. She soon discovered that there was a group of runners ahead and that Maida was guiding Pam to join them. She realized that Maida loves running as much as she does, and that her guide dog finds the same peace as she does when they’re running together.
Now, Pam and Maida run almost daily, up to twelve miles at a time, and have recently started running trail races together. They even went on their first nighttime trail run together during the shorter winter days: Pam wore a headlamp to assist Maida and Maida successfully guided on a trail in the dark for four miles. Now that she’s able to run independently with Maida by her side, Pam has rediscovered her love for running and the joy it brings – and it seems that the possibilities are endless.
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