The Achilles Kids chapter meets 30 minutes before the main group, and one of the youth runners, Kieron Ragoonath, often sticks around to run with the adult chapter. Ragoonath, 17, has already run seven half-marathons and plans to run the New York City Marathon in November. Ragoonath is on the autism spectrum, and his father, Kris Ragoonath, said in the five years his son has been running with Achilles, he has become far more vocal.
Kieron Ragoonath, who loves Spider-Man, said, “It’s like your own superhero team,” and compared the Achilles runners and guides to the Avengers.
Their neon T-shirts aren’t superhero costumes, but they are effective advertising for the group.
Christian Metzler was born missing part of one leg, and he competed on nonadaptive sports teams through high school. When he moved to New York six years ago, he started running, and he kept seeing those T-shirts. During Memorial Day weekend, he attended his first Achilles workout. Metzler is used to running without guides, but said he appreciated the visibility Achilles brings to adaptive sports, especially for people who otherwise might not participate. And he’ll be back.
“The community aspect is what makes it so fun to be out here,” he said.
Metzler wasn’t the only newcomer that Saturday. Four first-time volunteers showed up to learn how to be a guide. The training for new guides is always done by runners who are blind or visually impaired because they require the most work from the guides, Magisano told them. Once the guides learn to work with them, it’s easy to learn the nuances for runners with different disabilities.
Simon Isakov, who is also blind, pulled out a tether, which is basically a rope or band with loops on either end, that the runner and guide use to stay together. As the guide moves on the course, the runner can feel the movement through the tether. Magisano also talked them through verbal guiding, or letting the runner know whether a turn in the course, a puddle or a pothole is coming up.