By Jerry Del Priore
Ultra-marathoner Jason “Relentless” Romero has run distances that would make even the most accomplished runners’ jaws drop in awe. From a 100-mile race in the Florida Keys’ sweltering heat to a 205-mile event, and everything in between, Romero hasn’t shied away from any daunting distances in recent years.
Proving the point unequivocally, on Thursday, March 24, Romero will start his running quest, called VisionRunUSA, to become the first blind person to cross the U.S. on foot, a total of 3,246 miles, according to the Vision Run USA’s website. That’s approximately 50 miles a day for 66 days. If the 46-year-old single father of three completes the challenge in that time period, he said he’ll be the seventh fastest person to do so.
After performing volunteer work at a homeless shelter in Denver, Colorado, the idea of undertaken a such a huge feat suddenly fall upon Romero.
But the question remains: why?
“It’s a faith thing,” said Romero, who was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa—a degenerative eye condition that gradually decreases peripheral and central sight, visual acuity, and the ability to perceive light.
“Once I found Jesus, I wanted to dedicate my life to him. Not making any money, I have never been so sure that I have to do this,” he added. “I know I am going to get hurt, going to miss my kids, but I’m meant to do this.”
That’s not the only reason why he’s running across the country, though.
“I am doing this as a blind person,” explained Romero, who has currently lost 85 percent of his vision, making him legally blind. “I am going to show the world that blind people can do anything. If I can inspire the masses at large, then my job is done.”
It hasn’t always been easy for Romero, however. Sure, at 14 years old, he did deify a retinal specialist’s grim diagnosis of losing his sight within 15-20 years, to become an honor student, attorney, business executive at GE and Western Union and CEO of a non-profit school for children with Autism (he has a 15-year-old boy with the condition).
Furthermore, Romero has learned to adapt to most situations, compensating for diminishing sight by controlling conversations with people so they had to look at him when speaking, not vice versa. He said that most people didn’t even realize he was blind. But things really changed for him two years ago when he stopped driving.
“It really came crashing down after I stopped driving,” he recalled. “It was a huge transformation process. I was in my bed for three weeks.”
Romero saw a psychologist for a year and half to help him deal with depression issues. He recommended that Romero take medication. He refused, so the therapist suggested he start running for better physical and mental health.
That’s when Romero reached out to the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA), which he is fundraising for, and started running again.
“It helped get me out of depression,” the Denver native said of running and seeing a counselor. “It spurred me on to more running.”
Running and connecting with blind athletes across the U.S. helped Romero in ways he never envisioned before and renewed his zest for life in the process.
In 2014, Romero was the National Marathon Champion, finishing the California International Marathon in two hours and 51 minutes. He currently holds world running records in the 50k, 50-mile, 100-mile, 24-hour, 48-hour and 72-hour race distances and times. Plus, he’s a three-time IRONMAN triathlete and represented Team USA with a fourth place finish at the International Paralympic Committee’s World Marathon Championships in 2015.
Romero’s mother will accompany him by car on his momentous trek across the nation, which starts at the Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, California and ends in Boston, Massachusetts, at Faneuil Hall, with a break at the 25-mile point each day for various first aide checks and refueling efforts, he noted.
Asked if people think he’s crazy for embarking on such an arduous journey, Romero said, “Not too many people say I’m crazy because I’ve done all these other races before.”
No, just crazy in love with his Christian faith and blind people worldwide.
To check out Romero’s sponsors – Hoka One One, Running Denver, Princeton Tech, Digital Apparel Printing, We Fit Wellness, Zensha, Delta Gamma Fraternity, National Sports Center for the Disabled, Blind Children’s Center, Perkins School for the Blind, Thule, Kind, Pearl iZumi, Chiropractic Solutions of Denver, Foster Graham Milstein Calisher, Rocktape, Zamst, Hammer Nutrition, Normatec, Smartwool, Denver Sports Recovery, DJO Global, and Oberto, make a donation to his cause, and/or follow his progress, please visit www.VisionRunUSA.com, VisionRunUSA Facebook, Jason Romero on Twitter, United States Association of Blind Athletes Facebook, and USABA Twitter.