Marla Runyan – National and Olympic Athlete
Marla has won a total of five Gold medals in the 1992 Barcelona Paralympic Games: Women’s 100m, 200m, and 400m, Long Jump, and Pentathlon. She also won one Silver medal in the Shot Put in the 1996 Paralympic Games. In the 1999 Pan American Games, Marla took home the Gold in the 1500m.
Marla contested the able-bodied US Olympic trials in 1996 in the heptathlon, finishing 10th before successfully contesting the trials for the able-bodied US Team to the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Marla went on to finish 8th in the 1500m in the Sydney Olympics.
This achievement made Marla the first ever legally blind athlete to compete with able-bodied athletes in an Olympic Games.
Marla continued competing after the Sydney Olympics. In 2001 winning the women’s 5000m in the US National Titles, and in 2002 winning the 10,000m title.
The following year, Marla won the 20km US National Title event as well as the 5000m event. She then again competed in the 2004 able-bodied Olympics, not progressing past the heats stage of the 5000m.
In 2006 Marla won the Twin Cities Marathon in Minneapolis in the time of 2.32.15 and also the US National Championships in the 20km event.
New York and Boston Marathons
In 2002, Marla competed in the New York Marathon and completed the race in 2.27.10 coming in fourth place. It made her the fastest American in the race and the second fastest woman ever to compete and finish the race. She also placed 5th in the Boston Marathon.
USATF Runner of the Year.
In 2002 and 2006 Marla Runyan was awarded the USA Track and Field’s Runner of the Year.
At the age of nine Marla’s vision started to degenerate leading to a diagnosis of Stargardt’s disease (a form of macular degeneration). This disease allows for some peripheral vision, but no forward vision.
Marla attended Adolfo Camarillo High School, where she graduated in 1987. Marla then went on to complete a Bachelor of Education from the University of San Diego, followed in 1994 by a Master’s Degree in the Education of the Deaf and Blind also from the University of San Diego.
In 2002 Marla married her Coach - Matt Lonergan. In 2005, Marla took the year off to give birth to her daughter, Anna Lee.
Today, Marla Runyan, although retired from elite competitive running, continues to serve as an Ambassador for the Perkins School for the Blind which she has been doing since 2001. The Perkins School is the first school solely dedicated to teaching the blind in the United States.