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Blind Runner Completes Half Marathon Led Only By Guide Dogs

Thomas Panek has run more than 20 marathons in his life but this was the first using only guide dogs.

The 48-year-old was reduced to tears as he crossed the finish line, clocking 21 kilometres in just under two-and-a-half hours.

His trio of Labrador Retriever running dogs: Westley, Waffle and Gus, set their own pace, tackled different legs of the race and ultimately guided Panek through the entire course, without any hiccups.

It's the first time the New York City half marathon had been completed by a visually-impaired runner without a human guide.

Guiding Eyes for the Blind President and CEO, Thomas Panek, runs the first ever 2019 United Airlines NYC Half Led Completely by Guide Dogs. Photo: Craig Barritt via Getty

Panek -- who is the president and CEO of Guiding Eyes for the Blind -- lost his eyesight when he was in his early 20's.

While he continued running dozens of marathons with human guides, he missed the feeling of independence, CNN reported.

Dedicated to the sport, he launched a formal dog training program for running guide dogs, the first-of-its-kind in the world

READ MORE: Guide Dogs and Melbourne Zoo Harness Technology To Increase Accessibility

"It never made sense to me to walk out the door and leave my guide dog behind when I love to run and they love to run," he said. "It was just a matter of bucking conventional wisdom and saying why not."

Two dozen dogs have completed the program since its launch in 2015, 12 more are halfway to graduation.

When they graduate, each individual dog is matched with an applicant -- the newly formed team is even trained by Guiding Eyes, free of charge.

READ MORE: Police Rescue Guide-Dog In Training Who Got In A Spot Of Trouble

Panek and his three running guides had been running for many months, through every possible weather condition to ensure they were fit and ready for Sunday's race.

To make the run extra special, Gus, Panek's personal guide dog for years, ran the last leg of the race before retiring at the finish line.

Gus is now retiring from service IMAGE: Craig Barritt via Getty