BY LUIS GRONDA
This Woodside resident has not let his disability get in the way of living life on his terms.
Matt Turner is a visually impaired man who has been living with the disability for the majority of his life.
He became legally blind in his 20s after suffering two accidents that permanently damaged his vision. Turner fell off a horse while horseback riding and then fell multiple times while skiing in the mountains.
Turner, now 49, said the two accidents damaged blood vessels in his eyes that severely deteriorated his vision. He already had vision problems before that and the accidents only made it worse.
Now Turner wears contact lenses to help him see better during the daytime. He said his vision is still blurry with the lenses, but it is good enough that he can travel without a cane in the daylight hours.
At night, he must use a cane to help him as he walks and to identify if there is anybody near him. Turner said he cannot read normal print and is unable to drive because of his vision.
Still, Turner keeps an active life, including running.
He has participated in several races, including the New York City Marathon, which he says he has ran about four times.
Turner is set to run in the 12th annual Achilles International Hope and Possibility Race on June 29 in Central Park.
Achilles International is a non-profit organization that, among other things, helps disabled athletes train for athletic competition.
Turner said running has become a hobby of his because it helps him stay active and fit and allows him to be outdoors.
He can run indoors on his own, but if he wants to go for a jog outside, he must have a guide running alongside him. Turner said the guide helps him avoid bumping into other people or things while he is running.
Turner said he remembers the first time he was training to run for a race. Although he could not recall which race it was exactly, he remembers feeling nervous about running.
“The first marathon was tough to wrap my head around,” he said. “You’re training for it and the next thing you know, you’re running it.”
He is now planning for another Achilles race, after competing last year.
Turner said he has no regrets for participating in the sports that led to his vision loss, saying he was simply living his life as a young man.
“I had no idea at the time it could’ve damaged my vision,” he said. “You can’t live your life in a hesitant matter.”
He also has advice for people that may be in a similar position that he is: follow through on your desires. Turner said that if you want to achieve a goal, you should not let whatever disability you may have hold you back.
“Don’t let it pass you by. Show up and give it a shot,” he said.
Turner plans to continue participating in marathon races, including another possible entry to the NYC marathon this fall.
Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127, email@example.com, or @luisgronda.