The 10th annual Missoula Marathon hits the Garden City this weekend. Completing a 26.2-mile run is a daunting task but Rhonda Copeland proves year in and year out it can be accomplished.

“Once I got through that first marathon, running the second and now gonna be my eighth marathon, it’s not that it’s not hard, but it’s just that I know I can do it.”

Rhonda Copeland is legally blind. Yet every year since the Missoula Marathon debuted, she’s competed. Copeland was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa in 1997. Since then, her vision as well as her hearing have worsened. Still, Copeland runs over 3,000 miles a year.

“It’s just a way for me to kind of combat my fears of getting out. I mean I could let this blindness overwhelm me and never do anything and just stay inside. But I just give myself a talking to just get out there and do it. It just keeps me going.”

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For the Missoula native this will be her eighth full marathon, as she ran the half marathon in 2008 and 2009. As one could imagine, running blind would be difficult. For Copeland and her spouse Theresa, it’s something that they’ve accepted.

“There’s no way for me to take that away, I just have to let it be what it is. And that’s been an incredible lesson to learn over the years is that I just have to trust that it’s a kind universe, it’s a kind and loving universe, and it’s going to be okay. And so far it has been amazing.”

“I usually can distinguish between a person and a car, and a bike and a dog. I’ve said my ‘Hello’s’ to my share of bushes” *laughs*

On Sunday morning, Copeland will cross the Higgins Bridge for her 10th Missoula Marathon finish. The only marathon she’s ever competed in, and the only one she ever wants to.

The Marathon starts at 6 AM on Sunday.

Mitch Schafer – MTN Sports