In 2009, Tony Duenas suffered a sudden retinal detachment that left him permanently blind, the Los Angeles Times reports.
At the time, he was also overweight, out of shape, and had problems with his blood pressure.
“It was scary,” he she told the Times. “I didn’t know what I could do. I was blind. I had no idea.” He was 42 years old and living on his own when he suddenly had to adapt to life without sight.
“I always had my family,” he said, “but the last thing I wanted to do was be a burden on my mom or my dad or my sisters.”
So Tony spent six months at a school for visually impaired adults, learning Braille. Returning home, he learned the city bus system and memorized the layout of each block in his neighborhood.
And for the first time, he began seriously exercising, enrolling in boxing classes, a CrossFit gym and jiu-jitsu lessons.
Then one day he was walking to a bus stop when a jogger on the street stopped him out of the blue and asked him: “Can you run?”
That simple question changed his life. Tony became a long-distance runner and triathlete. He has completed seven marathons, three triathlons, three half-Ironman triathlons and dozens of other races. His living-room wall is festooned with medals. With the help of a guide, he goes on miles-long swims around Naples Island in Long Beach.