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Marla Runyan was nine years old when she was diagnosed with Stargardt's disease, an irreversible form of macular degeneration. With the uneasy but unwavering support of her parents, she refused to let their diagnosis limit her dreams. Despite her severely impaired, ever-worsening vision, Marla rode horseback and learned to play the violin. And she found her true calling in sports. A gifted and natural athlete, Marla began to compete in the unlikeliest event of all: the heptathlon, the grueling women's equivalent of the decathlon, consisting of seven events: the 200-meter dash, high jump, shot put, 100-meter hurdles, long jump, javelin throw, and 800-meter run. In 1996, she astonished the sports world by qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Trials, in which she broke the American record for the heptathlon 800. It was then that she decided to concentrate on her running. Four years of intense effort paid off: in 2000, she qualified for the U.S. Olympic team by finishing third in the 1500 meters. In Sydney, she placed eighth in the finals and was the top American finisher-the highest women's placing for the United States in the event's history. Not long after her return to the States, she shattered the American indoor record for the 5000 meters. With endearing self-deprecation and surprising wit, Marla reveals what it's like to see the world through her eyes, how it feels to grow up "disabled" in a society where expectations are often based on perceived abilities, and what it means to compete at the world-class level despite the fact that-quite literally, for her-there is no finish line.
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