Just months after graduating from UNH with a degree in engineering, Randy Pierce ’88 was diagnosed with a neurological disease that, during the course of two weeks, robbed him of his vision. Such an event might stop an average person in his tracks. But Pierce is anything but ordinary.
Since losing his eyesight, he has earned a second-degree black belt in karate; climbed 48 of New Hampshire’s highest mountains — twice; completed a double-century bike ride, competed in a Tough Mudder competition and finished a couple marathons. He ran the 2015 Boston Marathon for Team With A Vision and his own foundation, 2020 Vision Quest, which funds two organizations that support the visually impaired. And he ran in honor of his late guide dog, Quinn, whom he credits with getting him back into the sport.
“When I got Quinn, I was coming out of a wheelchair — balancing was a challenge,” he says. “The more I walked with him, the more speed I gained, the more my brain healed, and then magic began to happen. We picked up the pace, and the dog began jogging. So I did, too.”
Quinn served as a canine guide to Pierce in many 5K and 10K races, including the 2013 B.A.A. 5K — the day before the Boston Marathon bombings. In the aftermath Pierce made up his mind to run the 2014 Boston Marathon, but then Quinn was diagnosed with cancer, passing away in January 2014. Devastated, Pierce kept running. “It’s important for me to run in his honor,” he explains.
Pierce now runs with human guides; last December, he and guide Jose Acevedo finished first in their division at the California International Marathon. As for Boston? He ran this year’s marathon in 3:50:37, his new guide dog, Autumn, on the sidelines to wag him on.
Originally published in UNH Magazine—Spring/Summer 2015 Issue