The Mantra Every Man Should Master

by Kasey Panetta


E.J. Scott and his cousins, who served as his guides, after the Chicago Marathon.

E.J. Scott lives his life by a simple mantra: “What if.”
What if he was able to run 12 marathons in 12 states in 12 months? What if he could raise $12,000 per race?

But there was a problem.

When Scott, now 36, was 27 years old, he was diagnosed with a genetic disorder called choroideremia, a disease that would eventually make him completely blind. Doctors told him the long-term exposure to the sunlight during a race would further damage his eyes.

His solution: What if he ran them all blindfolded?

How He Raised Tens of Thousands of Dollars for Charity

Scott, now legally blind, isn’t a stranger to creative fundraising. He’s been thinking the “what-if” thoughts since his sister—a carrier for the disease, which only affects men—announced she was pregnant one year after his diagnosis. “If it was just me that had it, without my family being affected, I don’t know if I’d be doing this,” says Scott, whose 25-year-old brother and 7-year-old nephew also suffer from the disease. “I might just sit around a wait for it.”

Instead, he started working with the Choroideremia Research Foundation, the only facility in the US researching the rare condition.

He set his sites on raising money—he’d figure out the “how” of it along the way.

An improv comic by trade, Scott used the LA comedy circuit for charity shows and raised $14,000 from people sponsoring his weight loss. He originally weighed about 267 pounds, but now comes in around 210. (That’s around $200 per pound.)

In fall 2010, he walked 8 miles from his apartment to Oprah Studios blindfolded in hopes of raising awareness and getting some publicity for the charity and disease. He was turned away at the gate, but didn’t lose hope.

Marathon Fundraisers Have Wild Success

Scott was feeling good from his recent weight loss—part of his new health plan involved treadmill running—and decided the 2010 Chicago Marathon would be his next fundraising adventure. But he couldn’t do it alone; he needed a guide to help him run.

He signed up for a half marathon to start off. But running attached to someone isn’t the easiest movement to choreograph. When Scott and his cousin first tried during a half marathon, they had no idea how to work the logistics. First they tried running holding a towel, but that wasn’t quite enough guidance. Then they tried running with one of Scott’s hands on the guide’s shoulder, but after 3 hours Scott’s arm was too sore. Finally, they settled on the forearm. He found that running with his cane in the other hand gave him a sense of balance. Despite the drawbacks—neither can really get into the typical runner’s stride—they found it’s the best solution. Whatever it takes to get to the end of the race.

Despite all the training and mental preparation for the Chicago Marathon, he was losing steam around mile 22. “I was just done and I felt like I had nothing left,” Scott says. “I walked for a while and I regrouped and ran the last 2 miles without stopping. I just knew I was going to finish.”

His Most Ambitious Goal Yet

After raising about $30,000—in the Chicago Marathon, two half marathons, and a post-marathon fundraiser—Scott recognized that there was something to this running-for-charity thing. His next move: He committed to running 12 full 26.2-mile marathons in 12 months.

In 2012, Scott will start his marathon of marathons in January at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon and end at Las Vegas Marathon in December. His final run will be his first time running without a blindfold. Because the Las Vegas Marathon starts at 4 p.m., Scott will be able to remove the blindfold partway through the race.

“I make it very public so if I do chicken out, I have to really tell people I chickened out and that would be horribly disappointing,” he says. “I’m determined to finish every race.”

You can donate to the Choroideremia Research Foundation here. E.J.’s page is here.