When Noah Carver asked his parents if he could participate in running at his school, they said, without hesitation, “Yes.”
For Suzanne and Richard “Buzz” Carver, it didn’t matter that their kindergartener was blind. They’d make it work.
Noah, who is now 12 and a sixth-grader at Beals Elementary School in Beals, Maine, recently wrapped up his eighth cross country season. He completed each race beside his father, who holds his hand and verbally guides him over every root, curb, and transition between terrains.
When asked what he loves about the sport, Noah said, “The whole kit and caboodle. Running downhill and feeling the wind, I’m in my element.”
Noah has Leber's congenital amaurosis, a condition that causes severe vision loss at birth. But when he started school, he decided he wanted to be like the other kids and participate in sports. He settled on running, likely because his parents had always dabbled with it. Even as a toddler, Noah had already participated in his first race—a fun run in Boston for children.
Though he always needs to exercise a bit more caution to get around, Suzanne said she thinks her son embraces the opportunity to “move faster through space and feeling that freedom.”
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Noah said this season was his best yet, and it’s not just because he got his 1.5-mile time down to 12:53.
“I was more focused on lengthening out my stride and being on my toes,” Noah said.
Because Noah has never actually seen someone run, learning the mechanics of the movement has been challenging.
“Trying to teach him without being able to see how to move your arms and run naturally was difficult,” Richard said. Throw in their difference in height and their style of holding hands, and it often put them off balance when Noah was younger.
“It was fun, don’t get me wrong there, but me and my father weren’t used to doing it,” Noah said.
Now Noah is nearly as tall as Richard, so the pair can run stride-for-stride, and their paces and hand motions are more in sync.
During races, Richard does his best to let Noah control the pace while helping him navigate the course. The constant stream of communication hasn’t prevented trip-ups, however. At last year’s championship meet, Noah fell.
“He gets himself back up, and he just keeps going,” Suzanne said. “It’s a metaphor for life. He’s learning a skill, and he’s learning a huge life lesson in being a runner—you just have to keep going.”
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The duo has become a fixture within the youth cross country scene in Beals, and Noah’s competitors regularly voice their support for his efforts, Suzanne said. Noah always makes sure to return the sentiment, both during and after races.
For Richard, it’s just been a joy being able to run with his son.
“I don’t know how much longer it’ll last because he’s getting older,” Richard said. “Until then, I’ll try to keep up. That’s the joke around the community. They say, ‘Noah, are you going to tow your dad around today?’”