On June 22, Blind adventurer Red Szell, age 49, successfully completed an extreme triathlon which included a 10-mile off-road tandem ride through bogland, an ocean swim and a 213-foot climb up Scotland’s most dramatic oceanic rock formation, Am Buachaille, in 12 hours.
More than just a triathlon, Red documented the whole endeavor, working closely with action-sports adventure videographer Keith Partridge to turn the project into a message to other blind people: that one should never give up their passions because they are blind or have low vision.
“It was the longest, hardest, most physically challenging day I’ve ever lived,” Red says. “From when we got on the bike to when we got off the bike for the last time, it was 12 hours.”
After receiving his Retinitis Pigmentosa diagnosis at 19, Red says he spent two decades extinguishing his athletic dreams and spent most of the time on the couch in a cloud of depression. When his nine year-old daughter celebrated her birthday at a climbing wall in 2009, he gave the wall a try, and his dreams were reignited.
Red says that he feels that conquering the extreme triathlon is an emblem which represents the capacity and capability of all people who are blind or who have low vision.
“I think the fact that it’s three different, challenging feats, each of which, actually, I fully admit to having given up because I thought that a blind person shouldn’t be doing that kind of thing,” he says. “And, I’ve come back in an extreme setting and I’ve proved that these challenges are open to us, too. We might not be able to do them solo, but I’ve learned that it can actually be more fun to take on these things on with other people.”
Red’s current daring climb was made possible when he was chosen in 2018 to receive the Holman Prize for Blind Ambition. The international prize, offered by the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco, annually gives three blind adventurers up to $25,000 to support their ambitious dreams.
“The Holman Prize gives me the platform to stand up in front of the world and say: ‘This is doable.’ Don’t think that because you can’t see you can’t push life to its extremes,” Red says.
The prize is named for James Holman (1786-1857), a Victorian-era adventurer and author. The first blind person to circumnavigate the globe, he holds the further distinction of being the most prolific traveler in history, sighted or unsighted, prior to the invention of modern transportation.
For more background information about Red and his daring climb, watch this brand-new, two-minute video about Red and his Extreme Blind Triathlon.
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