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Ultramarathoner, Philanthropist Stops by Odenton

Tom Knoll has run across the country twice to raise money for various causes. He visited Odenton Friday as part of a tour to raise awareness.

Tom Knoll has put in some serious mileage in his life. 

The 79-year-old has run across the country twice. He's organized long-distance races in Hawaii and other states. And he's raised more than $1 million for various charities. 

On Friday, Knoll stopped by the meeting of the Rotary Club of West Anne Arundel County to tell his story and to help sell his book "Why Not A Million?" The book tells the story of his efforts to raise money for disabled children, wounded veterans and other causes over the last thirty years, mostly through long-distance running. 

His goal to raise $1 million for charity began when he finished a long run on behalf of the Shriner's Hospital for Children in Okinawa. He was greeted by a young girl in crutches, and was inspired to keep raising money. 

He helped organize the first Iron Man Triathlon in 1978, where he finished 6th out of 12 finishers. (It's now an multi-million dollar enterprise, with thousands of participants each year.)

Twice, he has run across the entire United States to raise money for the Sunshine Foundation, which grants wishes to seriously ill and abused children. He has also run from New Orleans to Minnesota. 

And he's done most of this while serving 47 years in the Marine Corps and Defense Intelligence Agency, most recently in Iraq and Afghanistan before retiring. 

In 2011, he reached his $1 million fundraising goal. But he's not stopping, as he continues to raise money for the Sunshine Foundation, Rotary Club and Wounded Warriors. Knoll has visited 25 Rotary Clubs around the country on his most recent tour. He turns 80 this month. 

"When you run these long races, it isn't physical, it's mental," he said. "You have to ask yourself why you are doing it, and you have to believe in what you are doing."

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