That’s how many the average person takes when running in a marathon.
What makes someone want to accomplish such a feat? Graham Kimmerer ’08 can tell you – he ran in this year’s Boston Marathon.
But he wasn’t the only Bullet in the race – Kimmerer met two other Gettysburg alumni, separated by more than a decade, while training. And the trio ended up running for the same team, the American Liver Foundation.
Here’s a story about the run of a lifetime, and how the Orange & Blue helped bring three alumni together in support of a common cause:
After graduating from Gettysburg with a B.A. in English, Kimmerer accepted a position with Bank of America/Merrill Lynch and moved to Boston – and had no idea he’d soon be participating in one of the world’s most famous (and challenging) long-distance competitions.
Kimmerer experienced his first Boston Marathon as a spectator shortly after moving to the city. “I stood on the sidelines cheering on strangers who are enduring one of the most physically demanding challenges of their lives,” said Kimmerer. “And after watching I told myself, ‘I can do this.’ So I went out the next day, ran 4.5 miles, and was exhausted.”
But he didn’t give up.
He started exercising regularly, and in 2011 participated in a half marathon. After successfully tackling the 13.1 miles, he was ready to take running to the next level. Kimmerer spent 170 days preparing for the Boston Marathon, cross training at the gym multiple times a week, running more than 400 miles, and even strategically napping – all in addition to working full time.
Although none of his close friends were going to run in the Marathon, Kimmerer was unexpectedly about to meet two new friends who were.
Kimmerer joined the American Liver Foundation’s Run for Research team, the oldest and one of the largest marathon teams in the Boston Athletic Association’s official charity program that raises funds for the fight against liver disease. At the team’s kickoff party, he met Michelle Dumas ’98 – and had no idea she was a Gettysburg alum until they both mentioned graduating from a small, south central Pennsylvania college. “It felt like we were old friends reuniting – even though we had never met until that day,” said Kimmerer.
During the winter, the team met downtown every weekend and took long runs together. This is where Kimmerer met another teammate who was also, unknowingly, a Gettysburg alum.
After noticing Kimmerer in a Gettysburg College sweatshirt, Dave Athey ’96 re-introduced himself and the pair quickly learned they too shared a Gettysburg grad connection. “The American Liver Foundation’s primary color is orange, and our team clothing is orange and blue,” Kimmerer said. “Maybe it has something to do with the colors that brought the three of us together to take on such an amazing challenge and run for an incredible cause.”
So what was it like running in the Boston Marathon? “In one way, brutal,” said Kimmerer. “In another way, incredible. This was my first marathon. Even if you’ve run marathons before, the Boston Marathon is universally known to be one of the most challenging, both physically and mentally.” Temperatures were unseasonable for Boston, much higher than normal, making the run even more challenging. “I wasn’t ready for July in April. However the crowd, the police and fire departments, and the race organizers were amazing: the crowd encouraged you, the fire departments arranged cooling stations, and the organizers did a fantastic job making sure the proper precautions were taken.”
He placed 7,708 of 21,606 and by far Kimmerer’s first marathon was the experience of a lifetime; something he will continue to learn from and never forget. “Running distance is always about discovery: how far, how much, how fast,” he said. “It’s exciting to learn that you’re capable of accomplishing so much mentally and physically.”
It was also exciting for Kimmerer to reflect upon what it means to be a part of the Gettysburg College community. “I knew that during the four years I spent at Gettysburg I was going to meet incredible people that would change and be in my life forever,” he said. And four years after graduating, he continues to meet incredible Gettysburgians, and together they are changing their own and others lives forever.
Read more about Kimmerer’s experiences training for the 116th Boston Marathon in his blog.