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November 28, 2002

Running: Disability can't halt ambition

From: Annapolis Capital, MD - 28 Nov 2002

By JOE SHAFRAN, For The Capital

Marla Runyan is a runner who is blind. Dana Dobbs is a runner who is deaf. Theirs is a story of pure ambition. Marla is from Oregon and placed fifth in this year's New York Marathon. Dana Dobbs is from Kent Island and he places well up there in anything he takes on. He's the cross-country and track coach and a teacher at Broadneck High School.

Marla has been legally blind for most of her 33 years. She has a condition called Stargardt's Disease. She says its like wearing a headlamp that dimly lights the 10 feet in front of her, but beyond that it's pitch black. Yet, she astounded the world Nov. 8th with a time of 2:27.10 in the Marathon. The only help she had was someone on a motorcycle diagonally behind her announcing the splits, and as she calls them, "fluid stops".

Anyone who meets Dobbs would be amazed at his capacity. He lost his hearing about 17 years ago when he was just 20. It was a one-year decline. He terms it Central Neuropathy. Dana teaches and coaches and does interviews with the help of an interpreter. As one interviews him, you see a lanky fellow with a shaved head, piercing bright eyes and a vibrant personality. In the interview, he's looking right at you, but somehow is reading the signs. His ear pieces are the only giveaway. Our interview was a one-on-one. Imagine him instructing the cross country and track teams. In running, he placed 25th out of about 5,000 in this year's Annapolis Ten Miler, in a time of 61:43. But 10-mile runs and 3-hour marathons seem to be just training for Dana Dobbs. His e-mail address is Ironman. He's a triathlete and prefers the Ironmans. In the most recent one, he did a swim of a 1 miles, a 50-mile bicycle ride and a half marathon in 4 hours and 40 minutes. He also does the JFK 50-mile ultra marathon.

In high school and college in northwest Pennsylvania he was a decathlete and sprinter. He came east to teach and coach-cross country at Magothy River Middle School and then at Severna Park with Ed Purpura. When Broadneck remodeled and re-opened six years ago, he joined the teaching staff and began coaching cross country and track. His cross country teams have been consistent champions. One of his runners, Lauren Centrowitz, is perhaps one of the country's best high school female cross country runners. Others on the team have excelled, also.

Last week, the Capital-Gazette Newspapers named Dobbs boys and girls crosscountry coach of the year.

Dobbs is married with three children. He seems content; he says he couldn't be happier than he is at Broadneck High.

Thanksgiving is more than stuffing. There's lots of running to be had. It started last Sunday with the the Old Cold Turkey 10K at South River, then came the perennial Turkey Trot at Anne Arundel Community College on a beautiful Tuesday morning, and this Thanksgiving morning, you have the Turkey Chase at Camp Letts at Edgewater. Enjoy the holiday.

Race Calendar

Dec. 8: 8 a.m. a.m., 12th annual Jingle Bell run/walk for arthritis. Call 410-544-5433.

Dec. 15: 10 a.m., Quiet Waters Park, Annapolis, 24th anniversary, 15K run, 8th leg of the Strider's Championship Series. Call the Snodgrasses at 410-266-6424.

Running results and items of interest can be mailed to Joe Shafran at The Capital, P.O. Box 911, Annapolis, MD 21404, faxed to 410-280-5953 or e-mailed to Joe hosts "Let's ShapeUp!" on cable TV and radio.

Published November 28, 2002, The Capital, Annapolis, Md.
Copyright © 2002 The Capital, Annapolis, Md.