Meet the blind runner who’s forcing us to see the sport, and life, in a whole new light
For Mark Joseph “Aga” Casidsid, 31, blindness was not a hindrance to living and doing what he enjoys most: running.
His disability has allowed him to see just how beautiful and worth living life can truly be. Casidsid’s calvary began in 2003 when he lost his eyesight to Retinopathy of Prematurity or Retrolental Fibroplasia, a condition caused by premature birth, which results in gradual blindness.
In fact, his running partner Edgardo Pelingo Jr., fondly called as Coach Gado, a former architect/design and construction head, says thatCasidsid even contemplated taking his own life.
“Gusto na nga niyang mag-suicide eh,” says the 33-year-old Gado who has been running since 2007. “But his father was concerned about him. Sabi niya, baka raw pwede kong tulungan si Aga na tumakbo.”
Though the request seemed challenging, Gado took up the task of training him. He started running with Casidsid who, despite his vulnerability, braved the steep terrains and, more importantly, the darkness that surrounded him.
“It took me about two weeks bago ko na turuan si Aga,” Gado adds. “Hindi ko in-expect na madali siyang turuan. Nag-worry lang ako nung una kasi baka hindi kami magkarinigan pag nandun nasa race, na mawala ‘yung communication namin. Sinasabi ko pa kung kakanan o kakaliwa para ma-guide ko siya.”
Both of them use 1-2-3 and A-B-C-D as their running codes to guide them through the marathons they participate in. The codes one, two, and three refer to the speed while A, B, C, and D refer to their position (left, right, front, back). Aside from these codes, Gado ensures that they are mentally and physically ready before gunstart.
Ang race naman talaga is challenging eh, pero ang adventure manggagaling sa start hanggang sa finish line. Sana mahanap rin ng iba ‘yung adventure na hinahanap nila kasi ako, nakita ko na
“Before, sabay pa kaming tumatakbo gamit ‘yung codes. Para mas maalalayan ko siya, nakatali siya sakin. Pero nung nag tagal, pakiramdaman nalang kami. Siya ‘yung tumatakbo sa harap ko.”
With this, the Center for Outdoor Recreation and Expedition (CORE)—the advocacy arm of Primer Group—acknowledged the collaborative effort exerted by Gado in training Aga to run. Now, they are officially recognized as Team Posible, bearing truth that even the most unfortunate circumstances like blindness may give birth to moments of triumph.
In fact, Gado and Casidsid recently joined the Salomon City Trail Manila 2015, a loop run that provides unconventional challenges like running up the stairs, bridges, and ramps, in the historic Intramuros district. This run aims to elevate the running experience by bringing the trail to an urban landscape.
The Salomon race is just one of the running events that Team Posible joined. To support their running adventures in and outside the country, CORE has been partnering with The North Face and the Recreational Outdoor Exchange (ROX) for their apparel, footwear, and other supporting equipment as well as their race registrations.
According to Tin Villaflor, program manager of CORE, Team Posible opens possibilities for individuals who want to beat the odds, for people who want to go beyond the limits as they participate in various kinds of sporting activities in and outside the Philippines.
“Team Posible originally refers to the relationship that coach Gado and Aga has. With this campaign, we hope to also enjoin the most vulnerable Filipinos to find their own adventure for themselves and have a renewed zest for life and personal adventure,” Villaflor says.
“Gusto namin itong ituloy,” says Gado. Goal namin is dumami ‘yung mga tulad niya na maipakita sa lahat na ang mga disabled kaya nang makipagsabayan sa mga abled. Dito papasok ‘yung inspiration, ‘yun bang makita ng iba na kayang tumakbo ng mga tulad niya.”
For his part, Casidsid asserts that running has become his outlet to feel alive again, proving that regardless of his condition he will be able to make his every run an adventure in life.
“Para sa mga katulad ko, sana lumabas sila sa box, ‘yung malaman nila ang purpose nila kung bakit nag patuloy pa rin ‘yung buhay nila. Sana ma-enjoy din nila ‘yung buhay nila dahil nakakapag-inspire sila ng ibang tao,” Casidsid says.
“Ang race naman talaga is challenging eh, pero ang adventure manggagaling sa start hanggang sa finish line. Sana mahanap rin ng iba ‘yung adventure na hinahanap nila kasi ako, nakita ko na.”