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Windermere native, former Olympia teacher sets course record at marathon in Antarctica
Windermere Observer Thursday, Mar. 26, 2015 4 years ago

Windermere native, former Olympia teacher sets course record at marathon in Antarctica

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by: Zak Kerr Staff Writer/Reporter

OGRATTAN-1-HORIZ

For many, running one marathon — let alone a second in a week — or a trip to Antarctica would be on a list of ultimate punishments.

For Windermere native Kevin O’Grattan, a cross-country coach and physics teacher during his nine years at Olympia, combining the two was just a bucket list item.

And he won both marathons by more than 20 minutes.

First, he won the Third Annual Punta Arenas Marathon in 3 hours, 13 minutes, 19 seconds — a minute off the course record — on Feb. 15 in Punta Arenas, Chile.

Just four days later, at 3 hours, 36 minutes, 17 seconds, O’Grattan, 33, set a course record in the Third Annual White Continent Marathon at King George Island, Antarctica.

“It’s funny, because a lot of times, I would go back and tell stories to my students and athletes,” he said. “To the uninitiated like my students, they imagine I go out and win races left and right. The runners are often more familiar and know I’m an amateur runner not competing at the top level. There are certainly faster runners out there.”

Even so, O’Grattan beat fields of more than 50 runners, and he was prepared to do it on consecutive days, but weather delayed flights for the Antarctic run by three days, he said.

“They were quick turnarounds for marathons,” he said. “For me, it actually wasn’t too bad. I was definitely hurting a lot Monday after the Punta Arenas race, mainly because I was racing on a concrete surface that was really hard. I did a couple miles to shake things out and ended up flying out Wednesday night, got to King George at about 8 p.m., went to sleep around 11 and then they woke us around 4 for a 5 a.m. race start.”

A birthday run in early January helped with the quick turnaround: O’Grattan ran the Minneola, South Lake and West Orange trails in one day, around 34-and-a-half miles, he said.

“The (course) in Antarctica is loose gravel and sort of hilly,” he said. “It was a tough course, but it was a lot of fun.”

OTHER VICTORIES

O’Grattan’s most successful and memorable season as a runner was early 2013, when he won four Floridian races, he said.

“I won the inaugural 10K in Winter Garden,” he said. “That was special living there, and then I followed up winning the Windermere 5K. I grew up around Main Street, so coming back and winning my hometown 5K was a big deal to me at the time.”

Between winning that year’s Winter Garden race Feb. 16 in 36 minutes, 8 seconds and the 12th Annual Windermere Run Among the Lakes April 13 in 17 minutes, 50 seconds, O’Grattan won the GR8toDON8 8K April 6 in Longwood at 29 minutes, 21 seconds. He got his third win in as many Saturdays on April 20, finishing the Seventh Annual Run in the Garden 5k at 17 minutes, 10 seconds, which was a personal best.

“Another one that was really big for me: I tried at the Indoor Masters in 2013 to win and got the bronze,” he said. “Last year, it was held in Boston. I competed in the indoor pentathlon and ended up winning. It was cool to have that title to my resume: that at one point I had a national championship in something.”

Among the 60-meter hurdles, long jump, shot put, high jump and 1,000-meter run, only the shot put gave O’Grattan much trouble.

“I was actually down points in the last event and had to come up with the points to make up points I had lost — a lot in the shot put because I’m a small person,” he said.

On Nov. 30, O’Grattan finished ninth in the Space Coast Marathon in Cocoa with a time of 2 hours, 58 minutes, 18 seconds, allowing him to qualify for the Boston Marathon for the first time. He plans to run in that race April 20.

CRAVING ADVENTURE

O’Grattan grew up with baseball and soccer at the YMCA but did not start running until his last two years of college for recreation, he said.

“I started running in 10Ks … and then the cross-country coach at Olympia asked me to join,” he said. “It’s a little bit atypical for sure. I always used running as a competitive outlet doing competitive races.”

Coaching opened O’Grattan to the team aspects of running and developing young runners while doing a lot of personal running, he said.

“I only now do about four times a year,” he said. “There was a time when I did like 34 races in a year. My competitive running has slowed down a bit. I usually try to make sure it’s a marquee event and I’m at peak performance. When I started, I was racing all the time and got really burned out. When I started at Olympia, there was a time I wasn’t racing at all, but I got back in it.”

Now, O’Grattan wants to combine running with destinations in Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia, he said.

He also will continue adventures, such as the ice climbing he and his wife did in Alaska in 2008 — for a television travel program that aired in 2012 but he has never seen, he said. 

“We also climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro a few summers ago,” he said. “We like to get out and try new things.”

Early this month, O’Grattan moved from Winter Garden to Kansas City after his wife accepted a new job, leaving O’Grattan with a new area to explore for racing, climbing and adventure.

Contact Zak Kerr at [email protected].

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