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Running Strong

Running StrongAs a candidate to run the Olympic torch relay in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Tufts graduate and global marathoner Kimi Puntillo is taking it stride by stride.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [10.29.07] The Olympics bring together some of the most remarkable athletes in the world in an incredible show of talent. So who better to run the Olympic Torch relay than the first woman to hold a world record for completing a marathon on all seven continents?

Tufts graduate Kimi Puntillo (A'79) is one of 18 finalists from nearly 6,000 applicants vying to carry the Olympic torch. The contest, sponsored by international technology company Lenovo, allows people to vote online for the candidate that best represents their motto "New World. New Thinking." The top three vote-getters will then run the Olympic torch relay at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

Vote for Kimi Puntillo (Voting ends at 11:59 p.m. on Oct. 31, 2007)

Puntillo's road to Beijing, which has included more than 20 marathons around the world, began with the New York City Marathon. The race had always caught the New Yorker's eye, and in 1994, she finally found the motivation to run.

"I was going through a difficult time, and I decided that I could either keep feeling that life wasn't fair, or I could try something new" she explained. "I watched the [New York] marathon every year thinking, 'Well, someday I'll run.' That year just happened to be 'Well, why not this year?' There's no time like the present."

Puntillo, who until that point was "never a runner," began training with the New York Roadrunners' Club and soliciting advice from past marathon finishers. Certain suggestions, she said, resonated with her, especially the emphasis on taking one's training seriously.

"I made [training] a priority in my life" said Puntillo, who when not running works as a journalist, television producer and marketing consultant. "If you respect and honor your training, you're always able to take the next step and run the extra mile."

The benefits of training were beyond athletic. The process "introduced me to so many new people, so many inspirational people," she said. "It completely surprised me: all the changes and all the new people that I met... it was such a great experience that I thought, 'Maybe I'll run another marathon.'"

Another marathon soon followed in a more unusual locale: Antarctica. Puntillo described it as "a childhood dream come true."

"It was a wonderful experience" Puntillo said. "You couldn't go there when I was growing up, only scientists could go there, and it seemed like a very special place. Then when I heard that they held a marathon in Antarctica and I could run it, I thought 'this is meant to be, I'm supposed to go and run this race.'"

This marathon was only the beginning of an unforgettable journey across the globe. Her inspiration for the voyage, she explained, was the discovery that the Guinness Book of World Records featured a man that had run a marathon on every continent, but not a woman.

"I wanted to be the first woman to do that, and then I started racing around the world," said Puntillo. Her goal paid off, as she was awarded the record in 2001, 2003 and 2005.

Although the Guinness record inspired the journey, she emphasized that "nothing can replace... running marathons in amazing countries and meeting amazing people."

Amazing certainly describes her path, which has featured a variety of unique and exotic marathons ranging in locales from the North Pole to a wine-tasting marathon in France to Mount Everest, which involved a three-week trek just to reach the starting line.

The international experience Puntillo received through the marathons has helped her develop "a very cool perspective of what life is like in different countries around the world." If selected to carry the torch, she would carry this perspective, as well.

"Running with the torch, I [would] feel like I'm representing and educating people on my experiences," said Puntillo. "I think the Olympics symbolize how sport helps everyone find the best within themselves."

In the meantime, Puntillo is writing a book on her experiences and touring the country to educate others about her travels, different cultures and the importance of setting goals and recognizing one's dreams.

As for her own goals and dreams, if Puntillo is selected to carry the Olympic torch, it would be her second trip to Beijing. Her first time? For a marathon on the Great Wall of China, of course.

Profile written by Molly Frizzell (A'09)

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