Nov. 25, 2014
For immediate release

Visually impaired standout prepares for fast CIM relay

Folsom’s Michael Kinoshita opened his mind to the possibilities in the 8th grade after reading a newspaper story about Richard Hunter, a fellow legally blind runner competing in the California International Marathon.

Kinoshita’s father encouraged him to be active, so Michael had run track and field as a 7th grader. But that story opened doors.

“He (Hunter) had more of a disability than me,” said Kinoshita, 19, who suffers from Achromatopsia, a non-progressive and hereditary visual disorder which is characterized by decreased vision, light sensitivity, poor color vision, lack of depth perception and shaking of the eyes.

“I thought, ‘I guess I don’t have any excuses anymore.’ It inspired me. This guy who lost his vision, he can still do it and still do it well. I can aspire to do that same thing.”

Kinoshita, a sophomore who runs cross country and track and field for Cal State Stanislaus, has developed into one of the fastest visually impaired distance runners in the country. He plans to compete in the California International Marathon on Dec. 7 as part of the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes National Marathon Championships.

He’s scheduled to team with Aaron Scheidies, who has won three USABA national championships at the CIM, as part of the Bank of the West CIM Relay Challenge. Scheidies is set to run the first 13.1 miles, with Kinoshita handling the second half of the 26.2-mile course from near Folsom Dam to the state Capitol.

“This will be the first time we’ve ever paired up,” Kinoshita said. “I’ve always looked up to Aaron. I’ve read a lot of his blogs. I do look up to him. He’s a good mentor even if he doesn’t know it.

“I think it’s going to be exciting.”

The USABA Championships are set to include 28 marathoners and 19 relay runners. Another six visually impaired runners are expected to participate in the 2.62-mile UC Davis Children’s Hospital maraFUNrun.

The CIM, which begins at 7 a.m., is put on by the Sacramento Running Association.

Hunter, a Folsom resident who helps coordinate the USABA National Marathon Championships, said Kinoshita and Scheidies should beat most of the able-bodied four-person relay teams.

“Michael was paired with Aaron Scheidies for this year’s 2014 Marathon Relay Challenge team for good reason,” said Hunter, who competes with retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited disease in which the retina slowly and progressively degenerates.

“They are the top two visually impaired endurance runners in the country. Michael actually has an edge on Aaron, who is a world champion triathlete and reigning national marathon champion.

“This visually impaired two-man team will put pressure on the top collegiate able-bodied relay teams and will be among the first to finish.”

Kinoshita, a psychology major, has won four gold medals at the U.S. Paralympic Nationals in the past two years, winning 800-meter and 1,500-meter titles in 2013 and 1,500-meter and 5,000-meter championships this year.

He also earned three gold medals at the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) World Youth Championships in 2011 and took home a silver medal at the 2012 U.S. Paralympic Team Trials.

Kinoshita owns personal bests of 34:32 (road 10k), 16:07 (5,000 meters), 9:24 (3,000) and 4:23 (1,500).

He said he’s happy to make progress, not just for himself but for others.

“I’m getting one step closer to not only proving to myself I actually have a chance to be great, but I’ll be able to help people get over their limitations,” he said. “It’s a sense of pride when someone says they are inspired by me.”

Kinoshita plans to compete with a guide during the USABA Championships at the CIM.

He tried to put his visual limitations into layman’s terms, noting his vision is “20-200 at best.”

“The DMV eye chart … for me, 20 feet away I can see the top row but nothing below it,” he said. “When I’m running, it’s like driving through the fog.

“I have less peripheral vision. It’s hard to tell distances, lack of depth perception … It’s sometimes hard to look ahead; my eyes are moving around.

“If I’m running into the sun I can’t look ahead. I have to look down.”

For all of Kinoshita’s success, he said his proudest running moment was after a race he lost in the 2012 U.S. Paralympic Trials.

“Another athlete was disqualified,” he said. “I don’t remember the full details of what the reasons were … He beat me by a long shot. I had my medal and said, ‘I think you deserve this a lot more than I do.’

“It was running that led me to that, learning how to give something up. I made a really good friend.”

Kinoshita said he hopes to qualify for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Until then, he plans to savor his running experiences and the connections he’s made with guides and other visually impaired runners.

“Most of my good memories are about the guides,” he said. “And I am meeting a lot of other people like myself.”

The Sacramento Running Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to finding new ways to encourage people of all ages and abilities to run. The SRA is committed to developing new, quality running events that appeal to a broad variety of runners.