WARREN, R.I. (WPRI) — A bungee cord mishap while serving in the U.S. Army may have changed Robert Sanchas’ life forever, but it hasn’t stopped him from living.
The legally blind 54-year-old took up running in 2016 after coming to terms with his impairment.
“When I lost my eyesight, I pretty much became a hermit,” Sanchas said. “I didn’t do very much … I was just locking myself in my room not doing very much.”
“The more motivation I lost, the more I sat in a dark room,” he continued. “Then one day I thought, ‘this is not the way I want to be.'”
Sanchas tells 12 News that, while he’s not completely blind, the mishap left him with lasting brain damage that makes it difficult for him to see clearly.
“With time, we realized the bungee cord wasn’t the problem,” Sanchas said, adding that the bungee cord had lacerated his right eye. “It was when I [fell] back and I smashed the back of my head on the corner of a desk … that did more damage than the bungee cord. It scrambled my brain up.”
Sanchas said he always hated running in the Army, but now, it’s given him a whole new lease on life. The Warren resident has spent the last several months preparing to run in the Boston Marathon.
“It is my life now,” Sanchas said. “It taught me that, instead of things being at an end, it’s just the beginning.”
“When you think of blindness, you think of complete blindness,” he continued. “We’re so visual that you think, ‘my life would be over,’ and that’s what I thought too … then I learned my life had just begun because I’m doing so much more, and in some ways I’m doing things better.”
Sanchas will be running with his guide Jeremy Howard, whom he met through The Play Brigade. The pair will run side-by-side in Boston, tethered together at the waist.
“His challenge is one I can’t even begin to comprehend,” Howard said. “Just to see him doing this is an incredible inspiration.”
Sanchas said he looks down at the pavement while he’s running so he can focus on Howard’s cues.
It also helps him clear his mind.
“It’s like a storm where everything is going crazy, and then you step into the eye and it’s calm,” he explained. “That’s where my mind goes. No pain, no problems, no worries, no fears. All I have to do is trust my guide and go.”
Even though running has mentally made him stronger, Sanchas admits he still fears chaos.
“The whole time until they say ‘we’re done,’ I’m worried I’m going to trip on something or I’m going to misunderstand a cue or I’m going to run into somebody,” he said.
But he refuses to let those concerns define him, adding that ever since he took up running, he’s in the best shape he’s ever been.
“I have a friend from the military who’s said ‘you’re the most non-athletic looking athlete I’ve ever met,'” Sanchas said with a laugh.
Both Sanchas and Howard are raising money for the nonprofit organization that brought them together. Their goal is not only to raise $10,000 by Marathon Monday, but also to finish the race in under five hours.
But more importantly, Sanchas is hoping that he will inspire others.
“Don’t give up,” he said. “I don’t care how hard it is or how long it takes … whether you’re just moving forward in your mind or with your body, you’ve got to keep moving.”