Legally blind runner brings high-stepping style to 2014 CIM’s half-marathon

At the mid-point of today’s California International Marathon, Folsom’s Michael Kinoshita was to receive the handoff from teammate Aaron Scheidies, survey the vague shapes and forms ahead of him and then take off running.

Kinoshita, 19, one of the fastest runners in the field, is legally blind. His teammate in a two-man relay event – with each man running a half-marathon – also is blind.

Kinoshita, who runs track and cross-county for California State University, Stanislaus, after competing at Folsom High School, is used to navigating obstacles.

At Folsom High School, he excelled at cross-country after developing a high-stepping running style to best handle the rugged trail bumps and twists that could trip up vision-challenged and full-sighted runners alike.

“I had a lot of trouble running on trails,” Kinoshita said. “I couldn’t see the obstacles or dips on the course. I fell constantly. But I overcame those challenges by having a little more trust in what I was seeing in front of me. And the way I overcame those challenges was by familiarizing myself with the courses – and by following the other runners and picking my feet up higher.”

Kinoshita has been running since he was 13, inspired by his father, Steve Kinoshita, a running enthusiast “who always encouraged me, despite my own doubts.”

This is the 6th time, Michael Kinoshita is running the CIM. He may not see nearly as much of the course as other runners, but he knows it well.

“There’s not a lot of twists and turns. It’s a relatively straight shot,” Kinoshita said. “It has a few uphills and downhills - and I like that it’s pretty fast.”

Kinoshita is running in the race with two guides, who will split shifts in keeping his fast company. Claudia Copeland of Folsom, another elite runner, will run with him for the first leg of Kinoshita’s journey. He will be accompanied by Nick Fowler, an assistant coach at Folsom High School, on his culminating route to the state Capitol and the finish line.

Kinoshita, who is majoring in psychology in college, hopes to compete in the 5,000-meter and 10,000-meter events at the Paralympics.

Sunday morning, striding toward the Capitol, he was headed in that direction.

Call The Bee’s Peter Hecht, (916) 326-5539.