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The Road To Boston Passes Through Arizona

  • By Mario Fraioli
  • Published Jan. 11, 2011
  • Updated Jan. 11, 2011 at 5:28 PM UTC

Tim Borland will attempt to qualify for the Boston Marathon while pushing his disabled friend in a wheelchair at this Sunday's P.F. Chang's Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon.

Tim Borland seeks to qualify for Boston Marathon while pushing his disabled friend.

Written by: Jean McMillan Lang

A man who once ran 63 marathons in 63 days to raise money and awareness for children with a rare genetic disease is hoping to conquer the Boston Marathon in April. But first, he needs to prevail in Phoenix.

Tim Borland wants to run the 2011 Boston Marathon, but not just by himself. The 35-year-old runner is planning to push Jeff Kummer in a special stroller designed by Cycle Tote. Kummer, 31, has ataxia-telangiectasia, which causes progressive loss of muscle control and premature death.

In order to get an official Boston number, Borland has to meet the qualifying time of 3 hours 15 minutes for his age group, so he and Kummer plan to compete in Sunday’s P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon in Phoenix.

Borland trains after working a 12-hour day on the rural, 700-acre ranch in Paicines, Calif., he manages with his wife, Michelle. Some workouts had him dragging a car tire; for others, he logged 20 miles.

“This is nothing compared to what kids with A-T battle,” he says of his training.

None of Borland’s three children has A-T, but after meeting others who do, he wanted to make his athletic pursuits more meaningful — doing good became more important than clocking faster times.

In 2007, Borland crisscrossed the country, running a marathon every day for 63 days. The runs included the Chicago and New York City marathons, but also informal 26.2-mile runs mapped out by supporters from coast to coast.

In June, Borland completed a triathlon in Iowa, with Paige Champion in tow. Champion, 20, is one of the estimated 500 young people across the country afflicted with A-T. Most children with A-T are confined to wheelchairs by their teens, according to information provided by the A-T Children’s Project (www.atcp.org), a nonprofit that seeks a cure for the orphan disease. Children with A-T often suffer from a weakened immune system, which makes them susceptible to life-threatening infections and predisposed to certain cancers.

If Borland and Kummer are successful in Phoenix, they will be running alongside Kummer’s stepfather, Greg Jehlik, who qualifed for Boston in the Chicago Marathon with just 46 seconds to spare. Jehlik, an A-T Children’s Project board member, said he remembers watching the Boston Marathon years ago when the family lived in Natick, but had never imagined running it. And particularly not with his stepson by his side.

Few tandems have taken on Boston’s famed Heartbreak Hill beyond the well-known father-son team of Dick and Rick Hoyt, who first ran Boston in 1981. One of the reasons is because the Boston Athletic Association, which organizes the marathon, requires even the person being pushed to be at least 18 years old.

Borland said Dick Hoyt has demonstrated an important aspect of running for physically challenged individuals.

“It’s nice that you run in their honor, but nothing can replace the personal accomplishment they feel being in the race and crossing the finish line,” Borland said.

For his part, Kummer, now of Oklahoma City, who was finally diagnosed with A-T at age 13, is excited about participating in a marathon. He is a passionate Green Bay Packers fan, and enjoys watching reality shows like “The Amazing Race” and “Survivor.”

“I love it,” Kummer said of the upcoming marathon.

“The thought of him doing a marathon is something he couldn’t have even dreamed of,” said his mother, Kim Jehlik.

“I think if anybody can do it, it’s Tim Borland,” she said. “Tim has the drive, determination and discipline, and through running — he talks about running with a purpose. I know how passionate he feels about A-T. That’s where a lot of his drive and stamina is going to come from.”

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Mario Fraioli

Mario Fraioli

Mario Fraioli is a senior editor at Competitor magazine. A cross-country All-American at Stonehill College in 2003, he now coaches the Prado Women's Racing Team in San Diego and was the men's marathon coach for Costa Rica's 2012 Olympic team. His first book, The Official Rock 'n' Roll Guide To Marathon & Half-Marathon Training (VeloPress, 2013) is available in bookstores, running shops and online.

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