There is rain in the forecast this weekend, and that makes E.J. Scott nervous. He is supposed to run the 26.2-mile Los Angeles Marathon, a task that usually takes him five and a half hours. Exposure to the elements for that long is enough to make anyone a little anxious, but Scott is more worried the rain could waterlog his curtain.
“It's really long; I wrap it around my head a couple times so it's nice and thick, but when it gets wet, it gets really heavy and it might fall down,” says Scott, whose face (when not covered in curtain) is recognizable from his work in the L.A. improv scene.
Scott has Choroideremia, a rare eye disease that has left him with just a fraction of the vision an average person has. “Most people can see about 90 degrees out of each eye and I'm at less than 20,” he says.
Sunlight advances the disease's progress — hence the curtain. It was a makeshift solution — fashioned by his girlfriend, True Blood actress Deborah Ann Woll — that stuck.
The L.A. Marathon is the third of 12 marathons Scott plans to complete blindfolded this year. He will run a marathon a month, each in a different city, in an attempt to raise $144,000 (that's $12,000 per marathon) for the Choroideremia Research Foundation.
Scott was diagnosed with the hereditary disease at the age of 27, just before he moved to L.A. and became a regular at Groundlings, IO West and Second City's Hollywood branch. His 16-year-old brother was diagnosed at the same time; his 7-year-old nephew, too.
“I lost a lot [of my vision] in a short amount of time when I was first living in L.A.,” Scott says. “In a few years time I lost over half of what I had.”
The speedy degradation took a toll on his improv work — a couple of times he bumped into other actors or almost fell off stage, and it got harder for Scott to get on stage at all.
“It's lights down, you take your place, lights up, you do your sketch, lights down, you get off stage,” Scott explains. “My eyes are really bad in the dark — I can't see almost anything. I would have to be guided on to and off stage when the lights were off.”
He doesn't perform much anymore, but Scott will have a show on March 30 at Second City. Like the marathons, it will be a fundraiser for the Choroideremia Research Foundation, one of the only organizations working to find a treatment for the disease.
“Treatment meaning stopping it in its tracks, not necessarily reversing it,” Scott says. “If it can stop it in its tracks, then it's a potential cure for kids — like my nephew.”
Before Scott can take the stage at Second City, though, he has to make it through Sunday's marathon and potential typhoon conditions.
Scott usually runs with the help of a guide, who offers an arm for stability and scouts out potential obstacles. “I have to listen to my guide and, depending on how hard it rains, that could really affect how I could hear him,” Scott says.
Luckily, his guide, David, isn't as worried. He braved conditions similar to those forecast for this weekend when he ran the L.A. Marathon last year — then he ran another marathon that same week.
“I told him it's going to rain and he's like, 'Bring it on!'” Scott says. “He's a bit of a lunatic. So that's good.”
E.J. Scott performs at 8 p.m. on March 30 at Second City. You can track his progress as he completes 12 Marathons in 12 Months on his blog or on Twitter, and make a donation to support the Choroideremia Research Foundation.