Marathons with meaning
R unners are always looking for a new challenge. After conquering some long-distance races, Peter Kline found one that added an entire new dimension to his passion.
"I started running in my 50s to get in shape and after a few years, I was doing marathons and ultras,” Kline said. “I always ran the Las Vegas Marathon and one year, I wrote Make-A-Wish Foundation and Seattle Children’s Hospital to see if they had kids who wanted to run Vegas with me. They thought it was a dumb idea, said these kids want to go to Disneyland or whatever. I said, maybe you should ask them. That’s how we found our first rider-athlete.”
During his first outing with a kid as a passenger, Kline realized that neither of them wanted the race to end. “Braden in Denver would drag his foot on my wheel,” Kline said. “He couldn’t communicate but he knew what mile 22 meant: that the event was almost over. So he started putting his foot on the wheel. That’s when I realized every minute is special for them.”
He also realized that what he had done could easily be replicated by other runners, even those with less experience. “Ultimately, it doesn’t need to be a marathon,” Kline said. “The parents, siblings, or friends often take over my role. All of a sudden, they realize they can do a 5k fun run, and you can do something to change someone’s life by including them, not pushing them away.”
A family affair
Dennis and Tamara Hills met Peter through a stroke of local Seattle luck. The couple had always run together, and they’d considered ways to bring their oldest son Benton along with them. Out of the blue one day, Tamara, a Brooks employee, got a call from Peter who wanted to talk to Brooks about helping him find rider-athletes for his burgeoning Marathons with Meanings (MWM) effort. Tamara told Peter about Benton and two weeks later, Benton, Peter, Tamara, and Dennis completed the Seattle Marathon together.
“Benton can’t communicate with us verbally, but we read his cues and we know he loves to be outside, moving past people and trees,” Tamara said. “Dennis and I have always run together and now we can share that as a family.”
The journey as reward
“Honestly, I get so much out of it, I almost feel a little guilt,” Kline said. “You’re not supposed to be doing this for yourself—you’re supposed to be doing it for these rider athletes. And yet I’m getting so much out of it because I know that someplace along the line, I’m going to be able to motivate somebody and encourage them.”