From Runner's World: Political Opposites Run 26.2-Together

Lt. Governor Calley and Supreme Court Justice Bernstein run the New York City Marathon together

November 13, 2015

Lt. Governor Brian Calley is a tireless advocate for people with disabilities.

He's also an avid runner and has participated in six marathons.  

The magazine Runner's World reported on the lieutenant governor's last marathon-- the New York City Marathon-- where he helped guide Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein, who was born blind, to the finish line in 5:37:05.

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein and Michigan Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley don’t agree on much. After all, Bernstein is a progressive Democrat, Calley a conservative Republican.

But the political opposites share two common passions: creating opportunities for people with disabilities—and running.

Over the past year, the two toured the state of Michigan together encouraging businesses to hire people with disabilities—Bernstein is blind; Calley’s daughter has autism—when they discovered their mutual love of running. Bernstein immediately recruited Calley to serve as one of his guides in the 2015 New York City Marathon. And on November 1, the unlikely pair (accompanied by three other guides) completed the race in 5:37:05. Remarkably, it was their first time running together.

“We want to destroy the stereotypes about what a person with a disability can accomplish,” Calley said. “We also want to send the message to policymakers across the country that people from across the political spectrum should be able to come together and work to create a better future for people with all different types of abilities.”

Calley, 38, who lives in Portland, Michigan, completed his sixth marathon in New York. The four guides ran in a diamond formation around Bernstein, rotating positions.

“Guiding is really hard work,” Bernstein told Runner’s World. “To run a marathon while navigating another person through a marathon is a truly, truly massive endeavor.

Bernstein, 41, of Birmingham, Michigan, is happy to be running at all after a cyclist shattered his hip and pelvis in August of 2012. Prior to the accident, Bernstein, who was born blind, had completed 17 marathons and one Ironman triathlon. Since recovering, he has done two New York City Marathons, but his times have slowed, in part because his injuries make it impossible for him to lift his left foot far off the ground.

“Marathons give me something to strive for, because it’s kind of like my eternal battle with chronic pain,” Bernstein said. “It’s my way of trying to not allow the pain to define my life and my course.”

Bernstein took up running in 2002 after being recruited by Dick Traum, the founder of the Achilles Track Club. “They literally change people’s entire lives,” Bernstein said. “I don’t think I would be a Supreme Court justice if I hadn’t been involved in Achilles, because it’s through this athletic struggle that you learn how to do other things. It gives you that self confidence that you need.”

Bernstein, who began his eight-year term on Michigan’s Supreme Court in January, travels to New York on a regular basis to train with the Achilles Track Club, because it’s the only time he gets to run outdoors. He hopes to return to the New York City Marathon. And he says he’d love to have Calley guide him again.

“For all intents and purposes, you’re putting your physical safety in the hands of another person,” Bernstein said. “The reason that Brian was so outstanding is that I could trust him so much.”

Despite their political differences, Calley returned the love. “It takes your friendship to a whole different level,” Calley said. “We were good friends before, but you run a marathon together, and it’s like you’re family now.”

Read the full article on Runner's World.com: Political Opposites Run 26.2—Together

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