Middle-distance runner Maria Runyan maybe the only athlete competing at this week's U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials who designed her own Web page. What makes marlarunyan.com even more impressive is that its creator is legally blind. "I thought, If someone else can design a Web site, then so can I," says Runyan, 31, who will compete in the 1,500 and/or 5,000 meters in Sacramento.
Runyan was born with a degenerative retinal condition known as Stargardt's Disease, which has left her with 20/300 vision in her left eye and 20/400 in her right. (A color photo of her left eye at age nine is located on her "vision" link.) A two-time Paralympic gold medalist, Runyan finished 10th in the 1,500 at last year's world championships in Seville and was bombarded with media requests. "A friend suggested that I create a Web site so that I wouldn't have to explain my vision problems over and over," she says.
Last January, Runyan registered her domain name, then taught herself Web design with the Symantec Visual Page program. She also needed to use ZoomText Extra 7.0, software that enlarges what appears on the screen. Runyan updates her site twice weekly and provides a personal touch, complete with photos of her golden retriever, Summer, and a "Mom Click Here" link. After being inundated with E-mails, she had second thoughts about having included a "Write to Me" link. "I've gone from 'Ooh, somebody wrote me,' to Ah geez, somebody wrote me,' " she says.
During the trials (July 14-23) Runyan will not update her site. To keep track of her and other Olympic hopefuls, your best bet is nbcolympics.com. The site plans to wire world-record holder Michael Johnson and record his heart rate during the 400-meter final and again during his much anticipated showdown against Maurice Greene in the 200. "What we discovered during a test run at the Penn Relays," says NBC spokesman Mike McCarley, "is that Michael's heart is beating faster just before the race than at any time during the race."
Considering what's on the line—when he's on the starting line and you're on-line—can you blame him?