E.J. Scott, a 36-year-old improvisational comedian living with a disease that impairs his vision, will run the United States Air Force Marathon at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton.
Scott suffers from choroideremia, a disease that leads to visual degeneration and eventually blindness. He was diagnosed in 2003.
This year, he has been on a mission to run 12 marathons in 12 states in order to raise $144,000 for the Choroideremia Research Foundation in a bid to find a cure for the disease. The race Saturday will be the ninth one he has completed so far.
While he still retains approximately 10 percent of his original vision, Scott chooses to run blindfolded. However, the cloth wrapped around his eyes is not there to make a statement or send a message. He wears it because of how incredibly damaging ultraviolet rays are to his remaining sight.
“I don’t want to run blindfolded,” Scott said. “I just want to keep the sight that I have for as long as I can.”
Because he will lack any visual awareness during the run, Scott must follow behind a guide, holding on to a tether or the guide’s shoulder or arm. Scott said this sort of navigation is extremely difficult to do for extended distances and that it is also hazardous.
“A lot of times I get pulled and yanked around,” Scott said.
Although he has fallen several times, Scott said he has not sustained any serious injuries.
He said he was not the first in his family to be diagnosed with choroideremia.
His grandfather, brother and nephew all inherited the disorder, which he said added to his motivation to race for the cure.
According to counsyl.com, choroideremia is extremely rare, with an occurrence rate of 1-in-58,000. It is an inheritable genetic disorder that causes the subject to gradually lose his or her vision, starting with the periphery and moving centrally until the person is completely blind, according to the research foundation website.
Scott said he is also raising awareness through his comedy and has performed at improv comedy clubs across the country. In June, he said he had the opportunity to perform with improv legend Ryan Stiles of “Whose Line is it Anyway.”
“He was a nice guy, but I was definitely intimidated,” Scott said of Stiles. “It’s funny. It was me, him and this other guy named Doug. So it’s three people, who don’t know each other, nervously hoping the others are good.”
Kaiti Shelton, a freshman music therapy major, is legally blind and said she likes the message Scott is sending by working to accomplish the marathons despite struggling with vision impairment.
“It doesn’t have to be as limiting as what people think it may be,” she said.
Donations to Scott’s cause can be made at ejscott.com/give.