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April 19, 2014

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Legally blind man will run marathon blindfolded to raise money, awareness

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E.J. Scott, who is going blind from a degenerative eye disease called Choroideremia, is running 12 marathons in 12 months. He runs with a guide while wearing a blindfold to raise money and awareness.

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For more information about E.J. Scott or to donate for Choroideremia research, go to Scott's website.

This afternoon, E.J. Scott will be among the thousands of runners at the starting line of the Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Marathon. The only difference is that he'll be wearing a blindfold. Scott is going blind from a degenerative eye disease called Choroideremia and must protect his eyes from the sun to preserve what little vision he has left. To raise research funds and awareness, Scott has committed to running 12 marathons in 12 months, with today's run marking his last one.

Scott reflected on the past year, his training and the challenges he has faced.

Are you looking forward to the marathons being over with, or is this bittersweet for you?

I'd say it's more sweet than bitter. I'm very much looking forward to it being over. It's so much harder than I thought it was gonna be, physically, mentally, emotionally. It's been a rough year, but a really rewarding year, too.

I'm pretty proud of myself. I'm shocked I made it this far, really. People keep asking me what's next, and I still can't even think about what's next. I've been taking it one marathon at a time, really. I'm just looking forward to a break and not planning a marathon for a while.

Why marathons? There have to be less-grueling ways to bring awareness and raise money.

I thought it was something I'd never do. I was very overweight and a smoker for a long time, really up until just a couple years ago. I'm 37, so I was well into my 30s until I made a decision to make a lifestyle change to be healthier. Marathoning was kind of a good excuse to exercise and watch what I eat and at the same time raise money for a cause and do something good.

So what is your strategy for running blindfolded? How do you do it?

I run with a guide. And that did change a little bit. I started out holding on to my guide's arm the whole time, but my shoulders would get really, really sore. Around marathon No. 3 in March in L.A., I tried holding on to a towel. We each hold on to an end of a towel, and that would give us some breathing room, and that would help a lot. So I mostly do that, but I still hold on to the guide if I have to, if I need to make a sharp turn, or if it's kind of dangerous or something like that.

What's going through your head while you're running? Are you hyper-aware of what's around you or zoned out?

Audibly, it's really overwhelming for me. It sounds like thousands of people being murdered by noisemakers. It's so noisy, sometimes I can't even hear my guide's instructions. But I think a lot about my family; I have two little nephews and a brother who have (Choroideremia). The females in my family are carriers, so I think of them a lot. I think about my girlfriend and having a family with her someday and what it will be like for her and for us. I don't have children yet, but I'd like to have some and interact with them visually and see what they do. So I'm trying to preserve what I've got as long as I can.

Have you ever fallen while running?

I've never fallen, but I've tripped and stumbled a ton, and I've run into a lot of people. There's so many people out there, and everyone is just kind of in their own zones. So I've had people run in front of me and I trip right over them. Luckily, I've never fallen, and I don't think I've actually knocked anybody down. But I've definitely shocked some people, and they've shocked me, running into each other.

What does this final race in Las Vegas mean to you?

This is a big deal. I can't believe it's here, really. I'm super excited but more and more nervous as it draws near. There are so many variables with this marathon. But as soon as the sun goes down, I can take my blindfold off, which I've never done before. I'm hoping that will help me rather than hurt me, but I am nervous that I'll be disoriented. But I'm really looking forward to crossing the finish line and seeing the finish line.

I also heard Las Vegas' own Steve Wynn has a degenerative eye disease. I've been trying to get ahold of him, but he's not responding. I would've really liked to have met him and talked to him. He's maybe the most high-profile person with a degenerative eye disease, so I hope he'll get wind of me at some point. I'd even like to just thank him. He donates generously, so it's good that he's out there.

Follow Andrea Domanick on Twitter at @AndreaDomanick and fan her on Facebook at Facebook.com/AndreaDomanick.

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