Blind runner Maya Jonas competes in Boston Marathon

News Apr 11, 2013 by Justin Skinner City Centre Mirror

Despite receiving a diagnosis that could have changed the course of her life, Yorkville area resident Maya Jonas has never encountered a challenge from which she would back down.

Jonas was diagnosed at the age of 24 with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye condition that caused her to lose her sight. Rather than allowing the condition to affect her quality of life, she decided to tackle things head on.

“Without challenges, life would be so boring,” she said. “I need new challenges every day.”

She set the lofty goal of becoming the “best blind person on the planet” and strives every day to live up to that.

“I keep meeting awesome (visually impaired) people who are far, far more accomplished than I am physically, intellectually and emotionally so I’m not there yet, but I keep trying,” she said with a laugh.

Jonas’ newest challenge will come when she competes in the upcoming Boston Marathon. Now 50 years old, she is a relative newcomer to long-distance running, taking up the sport a few years ago.

“I just started running three and a half years ago and when I had cancer two and a half years ago, I decided I wanted to run marathons,” she said. “I’m not so young anymore but I’m still 99 pounds and I can outrun men half my age.”

Jonas has always remained active, playing tennis, sailing, rowing, rock climbing and cross-country and downhill skiing. She is fueled partly by her own drive to succeed but also by the doubts of others.

“When you’re blind, people will say ‘be careful, don’t do this, don’t do that’ and it drives me up the wall,” she said. “Blind people are just like anybody else.”

Jonas ran her first marathon in New York two years ago and has since whittled her time down below four hours, qualifying for the Boston Marathon through her showing in the Toronto Marathon last May. She had set a goal of coming first among visually impaired female runners in Boston, but those plans were thrown for a loop.

“In the visually impaired women’s division, there was a girl who would win every year with a time of 3:37 to 3:45,” she said. “I trained to where I can do it at that speed but now there’s a new girl in town who can do it in two hours, 50 minutes.”

Jonas will be accompanied in Boston by her coach Allister Monroe and guide runner Omar Hafez. While she has several guides who accompany her on her various runs and is quick to dole out praise on each of them, she is particularly pleased to have Hafez with her for this race.

“All my guides are awesome, but Omar’s my best speed guide,” she said. “He has a great sense of humour. He’ll tell me all sorts of stories and jokes as we run, which makes it easier.”

Jonas is an athlete with Achilles Canada, an organization that helps those with disabilities improve their health through physical activities. She also acts as a spokesperson for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and for the United Way.

She loves living in the Yorkville area with her spouse, finding it ideal for her lifestyle.

“I’ve always lived somewhere downtown, and since I became blind, this became super-convenient,” she said. “Everything’s within walking distance.”

Jonas will participate in the Boston Marathon Monday, April 15 and hopes to continue on the marathon circuit, eventually competing in all the major runs.

Blind runner Maya Jonas competes in Boston Marathon

News Apr 11, 2013 by Justin Skinner City Centre Mirror

Despite receiving a diagnosis that could have changed the course of her life, Yorkville area resident Maya Jonas has never encountered a challenge from which she would back down.

Jonas was diagnosed at the age of 24 with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye condition that caused her to lose her sight. Rather than allowing the condition to affect her quality of life, she decided to tackle things head on.

“Without challenges, life would be so boring,” she said. “I need new challenges every day.”

She set the lofty goal of becoming the “best blind person on the planet” and strives every day to live up to that.

“I keep meeting awesome (visually impaired) people who are far, far more accomplished than I am physically, intellectually and emotionally so I’m not there yet, but I keep trying,” she said with a laugh.

Jonas’ newest challenge will come when she competes in the upcoming Boston Marathon. Now 50 years old, she is a relative newcomer to long-distance running, taking up the sport a few years ago.

“I just started running three and a half years ago and when I had cancer two and a half years ago, I decided I wanted to run marathons,” she said. “I’m not so young anymore but I’m still 99 pounds and I can outrun men half my age.”

Jonas has always remained active, playing tennis, sailing, rowing, rock climbing and cross-country and downhill skiing. She is fueled partly by her own drive to succeed but also by the doubts of others.

“When you’re blind, people will say ‘be careful, don’t do this, don’t do that’ and it drives me up the wall,” she said. “Blind people are just like anybody else.”

Jonas ran her first marathon in New York two years ago and has since whittled her time down below four hours, qualifying for the Boston Marathon through her showing in the Toronto Marathon last May. She had set a goal of coming first among visually impaired female runners in Boston, but those plans were thrown for a loop.

“In the visually impaired women’s division, there was a girl who would win every year with a time of 3:37 to 3:45,” she said. “I trained to where I can do it at that speed but now there’s a new girl in town who can do it in two hours, 50 minutes.”

Jonas will be accompanied in Boston by her coach Allister Monroe and guide runner Omar Hafez. While she has several guides who accompany her on her various runs and is quick to dole out praise on each of them, she is particularly pleased to have Hafez with her for this race.

“All my guides are awesome, but Omar’s my best speed guide,” she said. “He has a great sense of humour. He’ll tell me all sorts of stories and jokes as we run, which makes it easier.”

Jonas is an athlete with Achilles Canada, an organization that helps those with disabilities improve their health through physical activities. She also acts as a spokesperson for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and for the United Way.

She loves living in the Yorkville area with her spouse, finding it ideal for her lifestyle.

“I’ve always lived somewhere downtown, and since I became blind, this became super-convenient,” she said. “Everything’s within walking distance.”

Jonas will participate in the Boston Marathon Monday, April 15 and hopes to continue on the marathon circuit, eventually competing in all the major runs.

Blind runner Maya Jonas competes in Boston Marathon

News Apr 11, 2013 by Justin Skinner City Centre Mirror

Despite receiving a diagnosis that could have changed the course of her life, Yorkville area resident Maya Jonas has never encountered a challenge from which she would back down.

Jonas was diagnosed at the age of 24 with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye condition that caused her to lose her sight. Rather than allowing the condition to affect her quality of life, she decided to tackle things head on.

“Without challenges, life would be so boring,” she said. “I need new challenges every day.”

She set the lofty goal of becoming the “best blind person on the planet” and strives every day to live up to that.

“I keep meeting awesome (visually impaired) people who are far, far more accomplished than I am physically, intellectually and emotionally so I’m not there yet, but I keep trying,” she said with a laugh.

Jonas’ newest challenge will come when she competes in the upcoming Boston Marathon. Now 50 years old, she is a relative newcomer to long-distance running, taking up the sport a few years ago.

“I just started running three and a half years ago and when I had cancer two and a half years ago, I decided I wanted to run marathons,” she said. “I’m not so young anymore but I’m still 99 pounds and I can outrun men half my age.”

Jonas has always remained active, playing tennis, sailing, rowing, rock climbing and cross-country and downhill skiing. She is fueled partly by her own drive to succeed but also by the doubts of others.

“When you’re blind, people will say ‘be careful, don’t do this, don’t do that’ and it drives me up the wall,” she said. “Blind people are just like anybody else.”

Jonas ran her first marathon in New York two years ago and has since whittled her time down below four hours, qualifying for the Boston Marathon through her showing in the Toronto Marathon last May. She had set a goal of coming first among visually impaired female runners in Boston, but those plans were thrown for a loop.

“In the visually impaired women’s division, there was a girl who would win every year with a time of 3:37 to 3:45,” she said. “I trained to where I can do it at that speed but now there’s a new girl in town who can do it in two hours, 50 minutes.”

Jonas will be accompanied in Boston by her coach Allister Monroe and guide runner Omar Hafez. While she has several guides who accompany her on her various runs and is quick to dole out praise on each of them, she is particularly pleased to have Hafez with her for this race.

“All my guides are awesome, but Omar’s my best speed guide,” she said. “He has a great sense of humour. He’ll tell me all sorts of stories and jokes as we run, which makes it easier.”

Jonas is an athlete with Achilles Canada, an organization that helps those with disabilities improve their health through physical activities. She also acts as a spokesperson for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and for the United Way.

She loves living in the Yorkville area with her spouse, finding it ideal for her lifestyle.

“I’ve always lived somewhere downtown, and since I became blind, this became super-convenient,” she said. “Everything’s within walking distance.”

Jonas will participate in the Boston Marathon Monday, April 15 and hopes to continue on the marathon circuit, eventually competing in all the major runs.