Utah runner embarks on 800-mile race for a child in need of adoption

Oct 30, 2023, 11:50 AM | Updated: 2:16 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah ultra runner, Mike McKnight, won a 250-mile ultra race in May. Now he’s back at it again for more than double the miles.

“I’m going after a speed record on what’s called the Arizona Trail, and it’s an 800-mile trail,” said McKnight.

The 800-mile trail spans from the border of Mexico, through the entire state of Arizona and ends in southern Utah.

Or another way to put it — it’s 30 marathons back-to-back.

“Sounds extreme, and it kind of is,” McKnight said.

Mike McKnight speaking with KSL TV about his 800-mile race. (KSL TV)

Mike McKnight speaking with KSL TV about his 800-mile race. (KSL TV)

It is hard to wrap your head around. McKnight knows how to push limits, though, especially when it is for someone else. In this race, he’ll be running for one special kid, who is awaiting adoption.

“As hard as it is, I’ll be able to go home to my family when I finish, whereas of right now, Johan does not have that opportunity,” McKnight said.

McKnight is cranking out miles for RODS Heroes, a Lehi-based nonprofit organization that helps orphan children with special needs get adopted. Johan, a 15-year-old boy is running his own race against the clock.

“We are trying to find Johan a family before Thanksgiving,” Director of Operations for RODS Heroes, Laura Lindquist said. “[It’s] a race against time. When he turns 16, he ages out of eligibility to be adopted.”

Johan, a 15-year-old at RODS Heroes who is hoping to be adopted before Thanksgiving and his 16th Birthday. (RODS Heroes)

Johan, a 15-year-old at RODS Heroes who is hoping to be adopted before Thanksgiving and his 16th Birthday. (RODS Heroes)

Johan is from Latin America, where he has spent as long as he can remember in an institution with other children, many of whom have special needs.

“Without being asked or prompted, Johan will go around and spoon-feed these children and push them around in their wheelchairs,” said Lindquist.

Johan has seen many of these children adopted into their forever families, which led him to ask:

“When will it be my turn to have a family?” said Lindquist.

That answer, McKnight hopes is “Soon!” because he knows firsthand how much love adoption can bring a family.

“My sister adopted a child with Down syndrome from Columbia. That little girl, her name’s Maggie. She’s my niece. My whole family loves her. She’s the life of the party,” McKnight said.  “I’m trying to help people who might be in a position to adopt these children, so their lives could be changed just as mine and my family’s lives have been changed.”

With three weeks to go until Thanksgiving, Lindquist said the clock is ticking for Johan.

“If we can find a child a family, it’s like giving a superhero their cape,” said Lindquist.

Meanwhile, as of Monday morning, McKnight has nearly reached 170 miles. He can be tracked in real time here.

Johan’s story is posted on Rods website for potential families to read. RODS Heroes can also be found on Instagram, Facebook, and X where more information on other children waiting to be adopted is posted regularly.

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Utah runner embarks on 800-mile race for a child in need of adoption