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Brockport / Diversity Conference / 2011 / Keynote

Keynote Speaker: Olympian Marla Runyan

The College is pleased to welcome Olympian Marla Runyan as the 2011 Diversity Conference Keynote speaker. Ms. Runyan is the first legally blind athlete to qualify and compete for the U.S. Olympic Team in Track and Field. She is a 3-Time U.S. National Champion at 5000 meters; former American Record holder in the indoor 5000 meters; 2002 NYC Marathon top American female finisher, 4h place overall; 2003 Boston Marathon top American female finisher, 5th place overall; 2004 Chicago Marathon top American female finisher, 7th place overall and the 2006 Twin Cities Marathon Champion, and National Champion.


"Olympian runner Marla Runyan was born on January 4, 1969, in Santa Maria, California. At the age of nine Runyan developed Stargardt’s Disease, which is a form of macular degeneration that left her legally blind. Despite the effect Stargardt’s had on Runyan’s vision, she did retain her peripheral vision.

"She attended Adolfo Camarillo High School, graduated in 1987, and then she received a B.S. in Education of the Deaf at San Diego State University and a M.S. in Education of Deaf-Blind Children in 1994.

"While attending San Diego State she also began competing in several athletic events: the heptathlon, 200-meter dash, high jump, shot put, 100-meter hurdle, long jump, javelin throw, and the 800-meter run. Runyan also participated in gymnastics and soccer, until she could no longer see the ball.

"Runyan began to make her mark as a world-class runner in 1999 at the Pan American Games. The following year Runyan became the first legally blind person and Paralympian to compete in the Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. Marla finished eighth in the 1,500-meter, the highest finish by an American woman in that event.

"In 2002, Marla finished as the top American, with the second-fastest debut time by a woman, in the New York City Marathon. In 2001, Runyan became the first Ambassador for the Perkins School for the Blind, which is the first school for the blind in the United States. Perkins is often noted for its most famous student, Helen Keller.

"In 2001, Runyan co-wrote and published her autobiography, No Finish Line: My Life As I See It. Marla currently resides in Eugene, Oregon, with her husband, Matt Lonergan, whom she married in August 2002. Marla and Matt recently became parents for the first time when her daughter, Anna Lee Runyan Lonergan, was born on September 1, 2005.”

Excerpted from the National Women’s History Museum. For more information, visit Marla Runyan's Web site.

Last Updated 6/7/11