Fort Lewis College student Anthony Kunkel combined his passion for running with his commitment to helping people dealing with substance abuse by hitting a treadmill Saturday – all day Saturday.
The ultramarathoner – his race length of choice is 50 miles – kept his pace on a treadmill for 12 hours straight Saturday to raise money for The Herren Project, which helps people take the first step to recovery and education programs for parents to increase awareness of the signs of addiction.
Kunkel began running at the Durango Running Co. at 8 a.m., and as of 11 a.m., he had run 22½ miles, alternating running for 25 minutes with walking for five.
People can honor his efforts by donating on his crowdrise.com site.
Kunkel, 24, recently lost a friend who had struggled with substance abuse, which was one of many reasons he was inspired to get involved.
“A buddy I used to run with in Denver has been through some serious stuff, and he knew about The Herren Project,” he said. “He had the idea to do the ultra team, because there are a lot of former addicts in the ultra world, and a lot of potential addicts, too.”
Kunkel’s goal is to raise $10,000 over the next year for the project. He has plans for two more fundraisers during which he will attempt to break two world records. The first will entail a 1-mile sack race, hopping around a track and hoping to beat the 11-minute record. The other will entail hopping on one leg for a mile.
“I want to see if I can take those records down,” he said, “and stir up some fun. Durango is the perfect place to do this kind of thing, because it’s so athletic, so community-oriented.”
An exercise science major, Kunkel has always loved long-distance running.
“When I was in high school, I was always better at the end of the season, when I could run a 10K and beat everybody who beat me at the 5K,” he said. “I just enjoy long runs, outlasting people by running at moderate speeds for hours and hours.”
His running led him to a second place finish in the 2016 JFK 50 Mile Memorial in Maryland, which is one of the oldest and best known 50-mile races. The runner who beat him at the race, which took place just before Thanksgiving, set the course record.
“Many ultra runners have a lot of endless, restless energy, no different than a dog or young kid, so it’s a way to tire yourself out,” Kunkel said. “Part of that restlessness showed up in high school, where I couldn’t just take classes, I had to take AP (Advanced Placement) classes, I had to get the black belt, had to become an Eagle Scout, had to make the cross country team.”
His goal now is not only to raise significant funds for The Herren Project, but to inspire others to push their limits.
“One woman went out and ran a mile just because she saw me doing this,” he said. “The word transcendence gets thrown around a lot, but anyone can achieve it just by doing something new.”