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Blind runner left breathless by offers to be his Bloomsday guide

Judging by their physiques, they might look like the odd couple when they run races. But Bryant McKinley, a blind runner who was seeking a Bloomsday running guide, said his new partner is a perfect match.

McKinley’s last running partner is recovering from cancer surgery. So he put out an appeal for a fill-in for this year’s May 6 race. The Spokesman-Review ran a front page story about McKinley on March 27.

On Wednesday, McKinley said that since then he’s had more than 20 phone calls from local long-distance runners.

“I’m out of breath from all the running I’ve been doing with the people who read the story,” joked McKinley, who stands about 5-foot-10 and is all muscle. “I even had three different ladies.”

He’s been doing practice runs with some of the callers, he said. And others have invited him to go tandem bike riding, his absolute favorite sport, he said excitedly.

For Bloomsday, McKinley settled on 39-year-old Chris Sneider because “he was willing to do training runs with me and to do all the races between now and Bloomsday,” said McKinley, who hates to talk about his age but placed last year in the race’s 60- to 69-year-old age category and runs about an eight-minute mile.

Sneider, who describes himself as being “built more like a football player,” stands 6-foot-4 and tips the scales at 230 pounds.

He said he answered the call because he was impressed by McKinley’s seemingly competitive nature and intense desire to hit Spokane’s streets again this year.

“He deserves to run Bloomsday. He’s just a really great guy and a lot of fun to run with,” said Sneider, a geotechnical engineer in Golder Associates’ Spokane office. “And it’s really motivated me a lot more to train for Bloomsday.”

For races, Sneider takes the lead, with McKinley about three feet behind him. They stay in sync by clutching McKinley’s white cane with their right hands.

“My stride’s about twice as long as his,” Sneider said. “We just have to maintain the same speed, that’s the critical thing. And I have to be careful I don’t stop all of a sudden without telling him … or he’ll bump into me.”