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Alumnus Kyle Ewing raises money by running far, climbing high

His trek to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro inspired Kyle Ewing to start the Seven Ribbons Foundation. Photo courtesy of Kyle Ewing

Kyle Ewing is not one to take the easiest path, or the most obvious.

In 2009 he flew to Tanzania to study venture capitalism with the Thousand Hills Venture Capital Fund. He was wrapping up his MBA and tacked a week onto his trip so he could climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the 19,341-foot mountain that is the highest point in Africa.

While he was there, his father called to tell him about the Kilimanjaro Marathon.

“You should do it,” Craig Ewing told his son. “It doesn’t matter how fast you go, just do it for the experience.”

A former competitive moguls skier, Kyle Ewing (BSBA ’08, MBA ’09) had never run a marathon. Still, he considered this one. The race was on Father’s Day, and the suggestion came from his dad, who had completed marathons on all seven continents.

Kyle Ewing entered the race with no expectations.

“My only goal was to finish,” Ewing says. “I figured I’d just keep running until I exploded or until the wheels came off.”

At the halfway point, Ewing found himself alone at the lead. He kept running. At the 24-mile mark, he was still in the lead and still firing. At the 25-mile mark, he could feel his muscles aching with pain and his heart pounding as hard as it ever had.

The 27-year-old finished his first marathon and won.

The next day, he started the climb up Kilimanjaro.

“My legs were really sore,” he says.

Ewing’s mind and imagination, however, were fired up. What if he could complete a marathon and summit the highest peak on every continent? How fun would that be? Back in Denver with his dad, he did some digging.

The Seven Continents Club, made up of folks who have finished marathons on every continent, has 317 members. The Seven Summits Club has 275. Only two people — a New Zealand man and a Massachusetts woman — have dual membership. Ewing wanted to join them.

“It would take a huge amount of time and resources to do it,” he says. “So I thought if I’m going to do it, maybe I could help somebody or some cause along the way.”

Finding a cure for breast cancer, which affects one in eight women worldwide, seemed like a good option. The disease affected friends and family alike, and there were plenty of organizations doing research that could use more funding.

Ewing established the Seven Ribbons Foundation, created a logo, built a website and sent fundraising letters to running and climbing companies.

He would pay out of pocket to cover his travel costs, race entries and climbing fees so there would be no confusion around the foundation. All the money raised would go to the cause.

The North Face and Newton Running Shoes were the first companies to respond and remain strong supporters of Seven Ribbons. Others came on board, along with private donations.

In December 2009, Ewing ran the maiden race for Seven Ribbons. He ran his Australia marathon as the tail end of the Ironman Western Australia — meaning he swam 2.4 miles and biked 112 before hoofing it across 26.2 more, all in obscene heat.

For the North American run, he completed the Colorado Marathon last summer. One month later, he flew back to Tanzania to repeat the events that inspired him.

“I reversed the order and climbed before the race,” Ewing says. “Climbing the tallest mountain in Africa the day before the race cost me in the marathon. I only finished third.”

A month later, he flew to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to finish marathon No. 4.

In between the running and the racing, and climbing Colorado’s 14ers to prep for the bigger climbs ahead, Ewing keeps a day job. A business strategy consultant with Sand Cherry Associates in Denver, he helps his clients introduce new products into the marketplace.

At the beginning of 2011, Ewing completed the Dubai Marathon — bringing his total count to five marathons and one mountain.

The climbs ahead include the most daunting names in mountaineering: Everest, Denali and Aconcagua. Ewing is undeterred. He knows he will find a way.

“You know that [line from a] Robert Frost poem, ‘Two roads diverged in a wood?’” his father asks. “When Kyle gets to that point in the wood, he doesn’t take either path.” He creates his own. And with the Seven Ribbons Foundation, he has found a path that allows him to help others along the way.

Kyle plans to complete his seventh marathon and seventh summit within five years.

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5 Comments

  1. Mary Ewing says:

    Nice ink for Kyle!

  2. Chris Roberts says:

    I feel a little cooler just saying I know him. Fun story and impressive

    -Chris

  3. Mary Phillips says:

    Wow! Kyle is one amazing young man. As a breast cancer survivor and mother of a 34 year old daughter, I sincerely appreciate his founding of Seven Ribbons. I will be supporting that.
    Very best wishes,
    Mary Phillips

  4. Kristy Rae says:

    Kick ass Kyle way to go! Teach me how to run like that sometime?!

  5. Martin Hillenbrand says:

    Sounds like a great cause that really gets people inspired about it. Also cool that DU keeps up with its alumni like that.

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