Stand at the finish line of any marathon and you will see profound expressions of the runner’s experience. We’ve witnessed runners literally jumping for joy across the finish line; others stopping abruptly and sobbing. There was a runner who collapsed just steps away from the finish line. He pushed past all odds to lift up his head and find the strength to finish. There was the couple who held hands for the final sprint. We watched and cheered as he surprised us all by pausing at the finish line to take a knee and ask his girlfriend to become his running partner for life (She said yes!) From the finish line, it’s apparent how transformative the runner’s journey can be.
Over the years, there have been a few finish line moments we’ll never forget. At Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in Las Vegas last weekend, we were humbled by yet another powerful story. This time, it was not just for runners, but also for children who wouldn’t otherwise have the ability to participate in a race.
Peter Kline is a financial advisor from Seattle. He starting running at age 52 to manage his weight and get in shape. At 53, he ran his first marathon. A few years and several marathons later, he accomplished his goal of qualifying for Boston. It was then that his longtime friend, who was battling brain cancer, asked him to use the race to help fundraise for cancer research. Peter agreed. And while Peter’s friend lost his life shortly thereafter, Peter’s running life was reborn with new meaning. Running would no longer be about himself; it’d now serve a higher purpose that was bigger than any one person, any one race or any one PR. He decided he’d run for those who could not, showing others that extraordinary things can happen to anyone. His heart was drawn to kids with special needs and their families, so he started pushing disabled children as rider-athletes to marathon completions—something they may never be able to accomplish on their own—with the help of his own arms and legs. It all began with quiet, off radar efforts to include ‘rider-athletes’ in his marathon races with the assistance of Ainsley’s Angels of America. Soon thereafter, Marathons With Meaning was born.
On November 16, 2014 at Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Las Vegas, Peter accomplished something even grander—73.8 miles grander to be exact—with his very first Marathons with Meaning Ultra 100. His goal is to push rider-athletes for 100 miles in 24 hours. Wait…100 miles pushing kids in a stroller?! Yep. That happened. And it looked something like this:
Peter started a 100-mile run on the University of Nevada Las Vegas Track on Saturday. Around and around the track he pushed 12 rider-athletes, one after another (exact mileage per child depends on each child’s individual care needs and stamina to ride at length in a stroller). He continued running through the night and next morning, swapping out rider-athletes for 73.8 miles as their family members and support crew cheered them on.
Then, on Sunday, for his final 26.2 miles, he and a group of 11 volunteer “angel” runners lined up to push all of the participating rider-athletes over to the Strip to join as official participants of the Las Vegas Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon. It was on that course that Peter completed 100 miles full of meaning.
Marathons are about finding an inner strength, something more when you think there is no more to give…they’re about overcoming the urge to quit. Peter’s goal is to encourage and inspire the athletes, families and other runners to see that extraordinary things can happen to anyone. For one family, this meant realizing their own inner runner and discovering a new activity–5K fun runs–that the whole family could participate in, wheelchairs and all.
Through his journey, Peter has built a community of runners (and participants) who share his joy, optimism, encouragement and spirit of inclusivity. The gift he gives kids and their families is transformative. We are deeply moved by his passion, the rider-athletes and the Marathons With Meaning support crew. We hope you are too!