Athlete, 66, Has Run 45 Marathons with People Who Have Disabilities: 'It's Like Their Super Bowl'
Peter Kline, 66, has relished crossing the finish line at over 100 marathons — and for nearly half of them, the experienced distance runner has managed to push someone else to victory too.
Since 2012, Kline has run at least seven marathons a year while pushing people with disabilities in large jogging strollers, he tells PEOPLE. Kline has brought joy to over 60 people — whom he calls rider-athletes — and their families as part of his mission, Marathons With Meaning.
“For some of the kids, it’s their one chance to get out and do something really special,” Kline says. “It’s remarkable how special it is to them. I met a gentleman who pushed his son through marathons at the  Boston Marathon … I thought, ‘What about the kids who don’t have a dad that wants to do that?’ ”
Kline, a financial advisor, says he’s run with rider-athletes with various disabilities like amputated limbs and cerebral palsy. The youngest person he’s run with was 8 and the oldest in their 30s.
The best part? “The finish line,” says Kline. “When you’re running for 26.2 miles, it isn’t gonna be easy. I always say, ‘Make it to the start line, enjoy the journey, and make it to the finish line.’ When the kids get that marathon … there’s smiles and there’s tears.”
Kline adds of the kids to CBS News: “They love it. It’s like their Super Bowl. They absolutely love the sounds, the noises, the feelings. The other runners, they’re always very generous. They give them high-fives.”
Kline says the idea was sparked in 2009 after the death of his close friend, Scott Patrick, who had glioblastoma. That year, Patrick asked Kline to run the Boston Marathon to raise money for cancer research. Kline says he was hesitant at first but completed the race and presented Patrick with the finisher’s medal.
Following the event, Kline spent years struggling to come to terms with Patrick’s death. In 2012, his life took on new meaning when he was connected with a woman whose daughter, Taylor, has cerebral palsy. Taylor completed the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon that year with “with the help of my arms and legs,” Kline wrote on the organization’s website.
“One of the hardest events I’ve ever run. I was going, ‘This is so incredibly difficult, I don’t know if I can make it.’ But I did,” Kline tells PEOPLE. “I have not run a single event since then without a rider-athlete.”
At first, it was difficult for Kline to meet the rider-athletes. Now, hospitals, centers and organizations across the country are eager to connect Kline with people with disabilities.
“When the kids get their marathons, there’s also a sad moment there because they’re done. The culmination of a period of planning for it and strategizing and now it’s all over. So I get very depressed at the end of a race.” says Kline, who trains six days a week, running four miles to work each day. “What keeps me going is having the next one to go to, the next child I’m going to meet, knowing there’s a story out there — somebody that I can make a difference for.”