One of the best stories of the New York City Marathon will involve a blind runner who lost his vision, his sighted trainer and running partner, and their serendipitous love story.
Harlem native Anthony Butler grew up as a talented basketball star, but he lost his eyesight around the age of 20 as the result of a gunshot wound to the head. Soon after, Butler, now 30, turned to running as an outlet to cope with the devastation that came with the realization that he would never see again.
A few years ago, Butler was assigned a sighted trainer/guide by Achilles International, a non-profit organization that partners able-bodied volunteers with disabled runners. His volunteer was Jessie Rix, a 28-year-old runner who was just looking for some company on her runs.
It turns out she got a lot more than that.
As they began running with the lanyard that acts as a guide, and working to find their stride together, Butler and Rix quickly developed a strong connection. After a few months of blossoming friendship, they began dating.
"That first day I met Anthony, I was like, 'I need that person in my life one way or another,'" Rix told Good Morning America. "He's the happiest, most optimistic person in the world, and you just don't get that anymore."
They've gone on to compete in four marathons together in the United States, France and Spain. The couple recently moved into a New York City apartment together and have developed a tradition of running the Central Park loop at 5 a.m..
This weekend, they'll be tackling the New York City marathon together.
The couple's best time clocks in at just over five hours, which is quite impressive, but they're apparently less concerned about the competitiveness and more focused on their passion for the sport, and for one another.