From the Editor: The following article appeared on the first page of the Albuquerque Journal on Friday, October 28, 2011. Art Schreiber is a past president of the NFB of New Mexico and a longtime Federation leader. We are pleased to report that in the October 30 walk Art significantly bettered his time from last year. Here is the story:
A doctor's visit is rarely a good time, but Art Schreiber found himself particularly irritated during a recent heart exam. The eighty-three-year-old Albuquerque man said the hospital staff was afraid to check his ticker with the standard treadmill test because he is blind. The extremely fit chairman of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind, Schreiber bristled. He insisted on the regular test. As three nervous medical professionals surrounded the treadmill reminding him to say "stop" when his body was taxed, Schreiber kept on walking. “I had my mind made up.... (I was thinking) `I'm not going to tell you when to quit,'” Schreiber said. “I didn't, and finally they said ‘stop.’ I was about to die, but I wasn't going to say anything.” The lesson here? Don't underestimate Art Schreiber's ability; his will; or, for that matter, his endurance. For additional proof look no further than Sunday's New Mexico Cancer Center Duke City Marathon, in which Schreiber will be among the estimated 5,500 competitors lining up. He entered the twenty-kilometer walk. That's 12.4 miles--nearly a half-marathon. His friend Rick Walsh will guide him, and Schreiber said his goal is to finish in less than five hours. For anybody that age it's impressive, but to be blind too? said an awestruck Leslie Kranz, fitness director at La Vida Llena, the retirement community Schreiber calls home.
This isn't a new endeavor. In 2010 Schreiber completed the same race. It was trying and, quite frankly, painful. Schreiber, who used to run 5K and 10K races, always wanted to run a marathon one day, but a torn quadriceps tendon and fractured kneecap in 1999 ended that dream. He figured he could walk, although a 20K certainly tests an octogenarian's joints. “My knees hurt bad last year," he said. “A couple of times near the end I wanted to quit, but I won't do it. I won't quit.” Schreiber placed 209th out of 209, finishing the course in five hours, fifty-seven seconds. “But I was first in my age group because there was nobody else in my age group," he said. As of Thursday Schreiber was the oldest entrant in the 20K, although there are a ninety-one-year-old man in the 5K walk and an eighty-nine-year-old woman registered for the 10K run.
When Schreiber signed up for last year's DCM, it was both for the personal challenge and as a way to motivate others. “Blindness is not the end of the world, you know," he said. “There are so many seniors who are losing their sight. They think it's the end of the world, and it isn't.”
Schreiber, a veteran of radio broadcasting who came to Albuquerque in 1981 to manage KOB radio, lost his sight because of torn and detached retinas. The first eye succumbed in 1969. The second went dark in 1982. For a while he retained about 4 percent of the vision in one eye. But now that's gone too. A recent diagnosis of the inner-ear condition Meniere's disease has threatened his balance, but Schreiber has remained undeterred. “I really did [the race] hoping that I could get more people in my age group to do those kinds of things, because I really think it would help them," he said. “I think they would feel a lot better if they would work at trying to do a walk like that.”
After a news career that saw him traveling with Martin Luther King Jr. and covering the Beatles on their first American tour--playing regular Monopoly games with John Lennon and George Harrison--Schreiber likes to stay busy. He fits his rigorous training regimen into an already active life as an advocate for the blind. While prepping for this year's race, Schreiber logged up to three or four hours per day on the treadmill, often getting to the La Vida Llena gym by 5 a.m. Kranz has helped design a training plan to improve his endurance and strength and said she's consistently wowed by his efforts. “He goes twice as much as all the people half his age," she said.
Schreiber jokes that he has never been particularly sporty. During his days at Westminster College in Pennsylvania, his physical education coach made sure to point that out, once approaching Schreiber to ask if he drank. “I said `no,' and he said, `You've got the coordination of an alcoholic,'" Schreiber recalled with a laugh. “And I was never worth a damn as an athlete.”
Nobody seems to have noticed any athletic shortcomings. Kranz refers to Schreiber as "amazing," and his longtime friend JoAnn Huff would agree. “He's truly an inspiration to all who know him," Huff said.