He would run in the middle of the road, along the crown, and if he felt the slightest pitch of pavement, he knew he was drifting toward the curb and would veer back to the middle.
The one thing he could see was the glow of streetlights.
"They looked like dots in the sky to me," he said. "The dots were my guide."
He did that loop alone, in Mantua, Gloucester County, for six years.
"I realized as I got older that that was kind of nuts, and I could get hit by a car," he said. His eyesight also got worse, to the point where those dim lights disappeared. So he started on a treadmill.
Three years ago, he started running outdoors again.
He ties a neon-yellow shoelace into a loop. He holds one end. A friend holds the other.
On Sundays, he runs in New Jersey with Kym Stone and Dave Moore from his church, usually at 6 a.m.
"I let him know the direction of the turn before we approach it," Kym said. "Then, I simply do a 3-2-1 countdown. These days, Michael knows the route so well that he often will remind me of an upcoming pothole."
On Tuesdays, he still runs on the treadmill. And Thursday mornings, he runs along Kelly Drive with a friend from work, Maria Ferrato.
"He is the furthest from blind," Maria said. "He sees the world through the clearest lens and turns what is doubtful into a beautiful experience."
Michael is now 52, married, with a daughter, Haley, 11, and he can't wait for the day when he can run tethered to her. For 15 years, he has worked as a massage therapist at the Rittenhouse Hotel.
When he started running outdoors again, Michael's goal was to run Broad Street.
That presented a special challenge, a blind person running in a sea of thousands.
But friends flank him, and one runs in front as a "blocker."
Two years ago, Michael's first time in the Broad Street Run, Allen Ho, his doctor at Wills Eye Institute, also ran with him.
Michael will run Broad Street for the third time now.
"The most important thing about my run is the people that I run with," he said. "They're the ones that are my eyes. I put my trust in them. I couldn't do this without them."
Said his friend Kym:
"Look for a bright neon-yellow shoestring between two runners and know that you are seeing the bravest, most determined, normal, blind runner you will ever see. And be inspired."
Contact Michael Vitez at 215-854-5639, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @Michaelvitez on Twitter.
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