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A case of different similarities

October 10, 2002|by ANDREW MASON

andrewm@herald-mail.com

Dan Knepper and I have a lot in common.

We both graduated from Chambersburg Area Senior High School, where we ran track and cross country for the Trojans, and we're both preparing to run marathons this fall with similar goal times, right around 3 hours.

But our differences became immediately apparent to me as we chatted during a 12-mile training run along the C&O Canal last Friday morning.

For starters, my marathon is just that - a 26.2-mile race next month in Montgomery County that will take every ounce of strength and perseverance I own. Knepper's marathon is also 26.2 miles but definitely a bit more grueling, since it'll come after a 2.4-mile swim and 112-mile bike ride during the Ironman Triathlon World Championships in Hawaii next Saturday.

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Then, there's our age. I'm 30. He's 21. Now, that's what really gets me (not that 140 miles of elite racing over land and sea doesn't).

When I was 21, I definitely had no burning desire to test my physical limits, at least not in the endurance-sport arena. Like many college students, I was busy trying to fit in some studying between frat parties.

Knepper, who graduated from Penn State in May with dozens of triathlons and other races on his college resume, obviously wasn't your typical college student.

"I trained a lot during college," he said. "A lot of people just go home and watch TV after class. I'd go home and go for a run and then go for a bike ride, and the weekends were dedicated to training. I probably did more training than studying."

While neither of us were huge fans of the library, Knepper hopes to put his extracurricular activity to vocational use. His goal is to be a professional triathlete by the time he's 25, still a ripe age for the sport.

"It'd be a nice job," he said. "That'd be my ideal lifestyle, just training."

That's practically all Knepper does now anyway. He spent the summer in Boulder, Colo., doing nothing but logging miles at altitude. His payday came on Aug. 25, when he earned a berth in the world finals by placing second in the 24-and-under age group at Ironman Canada. He finished 74th overall in the 2,000-plus field and was the 14th amateur, seemingly well on the way to his pro aspirations.

Knepper said his parents, Dave and Gayle, who travel with him to all the races, couldn't be more supportive. He's currently living with them in Chambersburg and working at his father's painting business, which allows him the flexibility to train.

When we got together for our run at 9:45 a.m. Friday, Knepper had already put in a few hours of painting that morning. When we first scheduled the time, that was also the latest he could meet because he had a long bike ride planned for the afternoon.

As I laid down for a nap that afternoon, I thought about his trip to Hawaii and how I'd love to go, too - to sip on umbrella drinks.

Andrew Mason is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2334, or by e-mail at andrewm@herald-mail.com

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