Trailblazer Gary Thompson celebrates after finishing the 2016 Hospital Hill Run half marathon course in Kansas City, Missouri.
Apr 17 2017

Trailblazer meets marathon goal

Septuagenarian runner still going strong

Trailblazer Gary Thompson celebrates after finishing the 2016 Hospital Hill Run half marathon course in Kansas City, Missouri.

Trailblazer Gary Thompson celebrates after finishing the 2016 Hospital Hill Run half marathon course in Kansas City, Missouri.


Run 70 marathons by age 70.

That was Gary Thompson’s goal, and he exceeded it. His most recent race was the Shamrock Marathon last month in Virginia Beach. It was his 72nd marathon at “70 years young,” he said.

For Gary, a professor in the law and criminal justice department at Monroe Community College in Rochester, New York, running is about more than fitness. It’s about travel, being social and doing something good for others.

He’s signed up to run a half marathon with the Unbound Trailblazers at the Hospital Hill Run June 3 in Kansas City. The event also includes 5K and 10K races.

“Once you do one it’s easy to get hooked because of the fun,” Gary said. “You don’t realize that the pain from the race goes away in 10 minutes, when you start getting something to eat and talking to everyone.”

Gary has seen the world through running. He’s run marathons along the Great Wall of China, in Athens on what’s said to be the original marathon course, and in cities across the U.S. He ran the half marathon with the Trailblazers last year at the Hospital Hill Run after learning about it from his daughter, Michelle Dawson, who works at Unbound.

Raising funds to benefit Unbound’s work with families overcoming poverty was easy, Gary said, adding, “I just sent a bunch of emails out and people responded.”

While the fundraising went well, Gary’s race wasn’t as smooth. Almost 10 miles in, he slipped on some gravel while trying to pass a group of walkers. He fell, and the cut he got on his head required a trip to a nearby hospital and nine stitches.

For the first time, Gary didn’t finish a race. Not then anyway.

The next day, after his morning coffee, he felt like going for a run.

“I got my Garmin [GPS watch] that I had with me in the race and I noticed that I had stopped it when I fell, but I didn’t turn it off,” he said. “The running time was 1 hour 41 minutes, the distance was 9.9 miles and the elapsed time was 23 hours 15 minutes.”

Gary went back to the spot on the course where he fell and ran the remaining 3.2 miles. The finish line was still up from the day before, and someone who was there took a photo for him.

“I ran it, finished it and had my picture taken,” Gary said. “I was going for a run in the morning anyway, but it was kind of cool to finish the race.”

Gary has been running for most of his life, since high school and the military. For those just starting out, he recommends signing up for a local walk or run and training with a group. He runs every Saturday morning with friends, and they go out for coffee afterward.

Gary looks forward to running with the Trailblazers again at this year’s Hospital Hill Run.

“I think I’ll train better, so that I’ll try to finish in the same day I start,” he said.

Loretta Shea Kline

Managing Editor

Loretta joined Unbound in 2000. She brings more than 30 years of experience in journalism and organizational communications to her role as managing editor. Her passion is telling stories of children, families and elders served by Unbound around the world. Loretta is a graduate of Drake University’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication in Des Moines, Iowa.

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