Runner Rick Deyo

ON THE GO: Kokomo's Rick Deyo is shown Wednesday on the Nickel Plate Trail. He'll run in the Boston Marathon on Monday.

Rick Deyo qualified for the Boston Marathon in the summer of 1971 when he was 19 years old.

Forty-seven years later, he's finally going to take his place at the starting line.

Deyo, a Kokomo resident, planned to run the 1972 race but illness kept him from traveling to Boston. While that opportunity fizzled, the ember to run Boston never went cold.

Now, he has another chance and the fire is raging again.

To qualify in the 65-69 age range, Deyo would have to run a marathon in less than 4 hours and 10 minutes. That wasn't realistic now, but another avenue was.

He will run as a charity runner for the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired. The organization is taking a couple buses of runners to the race under the name Team With a Vision and runners raise money to help the organization.

"This is pretty exciting to me, especially to give back out of gratefulness to an organization like this," Deyo said, "because every dollar that's given, no money is taken out for my expenses."

Deyo, a local financial consultant, is covering his own travel and fees and for some types of donations, he will match those at 1.5 times more than the donation. His goal is to raise $25,000 for the charity by the cutoff date of May 31. It's a cause to which he relates.

"I chose this organization as a charity runner and they picked me from a pool of applicants because of my eye condition," he said.

Deyo was born with retrolental fibroplasia, now referred to as retinopathy of prematurity, or Terry syndrome.

"I was born about two-and-a-half months premature and 3 pounds, 3 ounces," Deyo said. "They stuck me in an incubator for 14 days. What doctors didn't know then was the intensity of the oxygen would scar my retinas.

"In my case, I don't see out of my right eye at all and the good eye turns to focus on the good part of my retina."

Emboldened by a cause he could get behind, Deyo is now getting to enjoy an event he qualified for as a teenager.

Deyo was part of a powerhouse Eastern Michigan University squad at that time under former coach Bob Parks. EMU won both the the 1970 NCAA-College Division title and NAIA title in men's cross country that season.

"I qualified when I was 19 years old and I was at the time running for Eastern Michigan," Deyo said. "I had a tremendous race at Belle Isle in Detroit. Well, I got sick a week, two weeks before the April race [Boston Marathon]. Ended up Coach took me to Hillsdale College in Michigan and I took eighth."

Even though he didn't keep pursing marathons at that Hillsdale marathon, the experience stuck with him.

"That started my career thinking I'd be a marathon runner," Deyo said. "Coach just thought something clicked in me in terms of long-distance, being able to hold a consistent pace and the marathon ended up being my forte."

It took a long time for him to pursue his forte. Deyo didn't return to marathons until 1998 when he was 45 years old. His most recent full marathon was in 2015.

"I ran the Marine Corps Marathon, that was in Washington D.C., and I did it in honor of a young man that was killed in Afghanistan [U.S. Army Sgt. Dale Griffin]," Deyo said of the 2015 race. "His parents live in Terre Haute."

Having a cause to run for is a boost.

"That was my way of giving back," Deyo said. "I couldn't serve in the military due to my eye condition. Similarly this [2018 Boston Marthon] is my way of closing out my marathon career by giving back to an organization that is going to improve the daily functionality of people that are blind or have low vision so they can live a productive life."

Deyo's personal goal is to run a sub-5 hour marathon. He's been training since November.

He takes inspiration from former Olympian and one of the chief subjects of the 1981 movie Chariots of Fire, Eric Liddell.

"I have taken some quotes from Eric Liddell," Deyo said, talking about their effect. "So I run for the glory of God and the testimony of Christ. Part of my decision making to serve the Lord was made during the first marathon I ran at Hillsdale College. I gave my life to the Lord regardless of the challenges that are going to come my way and little did I realize how difficult life was going to be for me, but I've had a measure of success because of my teachers and coaches that didn't give up on me and I'm very grateful for that."

Deyo expects Boston to close the circle on his marathon career.

"I am really looking forward to it," he said. "I'm excited about this, I'm excited about the people I'm going to meet and the challenges they've overcome. I'm pumped. This is my last run, this is my last hurrah."

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Pedro Velazco has been a sportswriter at the Kokomo Tribune since 1999.