A blind athlete conquers the Inca Trail Marathon in one day (10 Photos)
On October 14th at 5:30 pm, Dan Berlin became the first blind person to finish the Inca Trail in just one day. With the help of Team See Possibilities, he completed the 26-mile trek in just 13 hours.
Considered one of the hardest marathons in the world, The Inca Trail is not for the weak. Most hikers take 4 days to complete, and the trail goes through 3 mountain passes. It reaches an elevation of 14,000 feet, and includes 1,500 steps.
Locals thought they were insane.
Team See Possibilities member Charles Scott said, “The day before the trek we were talking with our local guide, and he told us, ‘I have done this 215 times and I have to say that what you’re planning to do isn’t impossible, but I would caution you: be OK if it takes more than one day.”
Despite his disability, the guide’s warning didn’t phase Dan. Over the course of 20 years, he lost his sight due to cone-rod dystrophy. He decided to become a marathon runner after dealing with years of depression.
When asked about Dan, team member Alison Qualter Berna said “Bad things happen. Dan went blind in his 30s. It’s not fair. But he took a horrible situation and turned it around. And now he’s made a bigger impact and been an inspiration to more people than he could have before.”
The team started the trek at 4:30 am, hiking in the dark. Their goal was to make it to a check-in point at 4pm , before sunset.
A few hours in, things got hairy. The high elevation, slippery steps and narrow paths made the trek very difficult, and the descents were miserable.
After the frustration of realizing just how hard the journey was going to be, the team came up with a new guiding technique where Dan would grab onto Berna’s and Scott’s backpacks, forming a trapezoid. Doing this enabled them to make up for the hours they had lost getting slowed down.
They ended up making it to the checkpoint 2 minutes before their deadline.
At 5:40, the team reached Machu Picchu and the end of the trail… success had been achieved.
Berna says, “To our left, was a pink, glowing sky. The sun was setting, and Machu Picchu was devoid of people- all the tour buses leave at 5 pm. Few people get to see this beautiful historic, spiritual site without people in it. It was amazing.”
“But that wasn’t the reward for Dan. People put Machu Picchu on their lists just to see it. But with Dan, the reward isn’t seeing it, it’s trekking it… he could feel it.”