Running So Others Get Ahead

Local teen’s ultramarathon raises over $75,000

Seventeen-year-old Connor Mailander suddenly found his high school and cross-country training facilities closed due to COVID-19. Undaunted, he committed himself to keep running, but for a cause much greater that his own athletic achievement. Inspired by a desire to help under-resourced kids break the cycle of poverty, he embarked last month on a 100-mile ultramarathon. Mailander’s goal was to not only complete that feat of endurance, but to also raise $100,000 in charitable contributions. 

As soon as he began six weeks of rigorous training to prepare, he launched a  GoFundMe campaign. All money generated by the effort directly benefits the “To and Through College Access Program,” an initiative of the nonprofit OpenDoors of Asheville. OpenDoors helps students K-12 prepare for college by providing educational intervention, resource support, tutoring, mentoring, advocacy, after-school and weekend enrichment programs, and more. The “To and Through College Access Program” is designed to ensure that kids not only get to college, but successfully complete that education.  

Mailander viewed his ultramarathon as an analogy for what it takes to achieve a good education, and says that nobody should have to go it alone. “When you run 100 miles you have to have support to be able to finish,” he points out. “It’s the same way with education. You have to have support and encouragement. You have to have people supporting you the whole way.

“In a world where the level of education almost defines you,” he adds, “I think it’s necessary that everyone has the same opportunity to achieve their desired amount of education. Education is just one of a large number of things that can help people break through the multi-generational poverty that we have in this country.”

At press time, the rising senior at Carolina Day School was two days from beginning his June 19 run near his home in South Asheville. His route went through Mills River and into mountainous terrain in Pisgah Forest, along part of North Carolina’s famed Mountains to Sea Trail. He planned to complete the run at Biltmore Park Town Square and hoped to finish his 100-mile run in less than 40 hours.

The unique fundraiser comes at an especially critical time for low-income students, notes OpenDoors of Asheville Executive Director Jennifer Langdon Ramming. “When the world seems upside down, Open Doors’ focus is still on educating young people so that they can break the cycle of poverty ─ for their families for generations to come,” she told Bold Life. “Our community must make certain all children have enough opportunity to meet their ultimate potential. As a rising senior, Connor sees harmful cracks in our community and uses his gifts to craft a better world. What more could we ask from our youth? We’re honored he’s chosen OpenDoors for his philanthropy.”

To see the results of “Connor’s 100 Mile Run,” visit his GoFundMe page: Connor’s 100 Miles

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