(NewsNation) —Alex France was named an NAIA All-American in marathon running out of Midland University in Nebraska. He was also an all-conference competitor in the 10,000-meter race.
What is really spectacular about France however, is he did it all while being legally blind.
Running has become an outlet for France and a tool he’s used to inspire others.
“What connects me to running is just the battle between the mind and the body,” France said. “Especially because I obviously deal with something physical losing my vision. But being able to really test the limits of my body’s capability with my mind is what I really enjoy about running.”
France was born with the ability to see but he was diagnosed his freshman year of high school with a condition that was degenerating his eyesight. But rather than let it slow him down, he wanted to use it to inspire people.
“To people who want to achieve their goals, have any dreams, don’t let anything stop you from doing that,” France said. “Regardless if you have a disability or if you don’t. Surround yourself with people who care about you in order to support you doing those dreams.”
He’s already inspired those closest to him.
“Truly it’s just been an incredible experience overall,” said France’s coach and guide runner Phillip Duncan. “He has done everything that could ever be asked of him as far as training, he’s strong academically. He has opportunities to make excuses but he’s a team leader by all means.”
Duncan is France’s guide runner and coach, which means it’s his job to help France navigate races and training sessions. And yes, it can be hard at times to keep up with France.
“If I am having a rough day and he is having a good day, there’s been times we’ve both kind of pulled each other through workouts,” Duncan said. “But it’s always been a good experience.”
Their relationship is crucial to France’s success in races.
“One of the biggest things I’ve learned, especially working with Phillip, is being able to grow in a relationship with one another. … It takes an extreme amount of trust in one another,” France said. “The amount of miles we have put in together, it’s a lot of miles if you can imagine, but just to grow and learn about somebody else and really just to be able to spend a lot of time with somebody, it means a lot to me.”
Where Duncan has had a crucial impact on France’s running career, France has in turn had a profound impact on Duncan.
“The things Alex notices about people and the world that you wouldn’t expect, always looking on the bright side of things, it’s just been really eye-opening,” Duncan said. “It’s been very enjoyable. There’s been slips and trips and falls, running on ice. It’s kind of one of those things where you get up and shake it off and you keep going.”