For some, getting to college graduation can seem like a marathon, but Anne McKee decided her graduation would include an actual ultramarathon.

McKee graduated Saturday from Bowdoin College and, absent a formal, in-person graduation ceremony, marked the occasion by running the more than 50 kilometers from the college in Brunswick to her Hallowell home, receiving cheers along the way from many family members and friends, and making it home in time to take part in the college’s virtual graduation ceremonies.

“It was a great way to spend a day that, otherwise, could have been sad,” she said after completing the run home in about four hours and 45 minutes.

“I was tired by the end of it, but it felt surprisingly great the whole way. It was so amazing to have all the support of family and friends, from all parts of my life, especially at some of the little roads, on corners, with crowds of people with signs and posters and bells.”

She ran the last stretch, in Hallowell, in her graduation cap and gown.

Kents Hill School’s Anne McKee wins the girls 1600 at Capital City Classic on Friday May 23, 2014 at Cony High’s Alumni Field in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

McKee said she hopes the long run will provide some closure to her college experience, which ended abruptly when colleges and universities sent students home due to fears about the spread of the coronavirus.

“It has been strange, every day is a bit different,” she said of the experience of going home, instead of returning to her classes at Bowdoin, when fears of the virus and disease it causes, COVID-19, arose.

“Some days it’s good to be home, spending time with family. But other days, I’m really sad I’m missing out on this closure from a place I really loved a lot, and being with my friends from all these different places, and professors you’ve become close with.

“This run has been a nice thing to keep in the back of my mind in my daily life. It’s good to kind of have that goal. I think this run will be closure to all of that.”

Such long runs — in this case, more than 50 kilometers, or 32.5 miles — are not new to the Kents Hill School graduate. She has run marathons in Maine and, last year, ran an ultramarathon, a run of at least 50 kilometers, in Norway.

She ran all four of her years at Kents Hill, where her dad, Walter McKee, said she won the state championship twice in the 3,200 meter, the 1,600 meter her freshman year and was the New England Preparatory cross country champion three years in a row, setting course records each of those races.

She ran varsity track and cross country all four of her years at Bowdoin, winning the Maine state college indoor track championship in the 5,000 meters and was a four-time New England Small College Athletic Conference All-Academic award winner in track and cross country. And she was selected as the Kennebec Journal’s athlete of the year multiple times, in track and field, nordic skiing and cross country.

“To watch Anne race was always such a treat,” Walter McKee said. “She gave her all, every single race, and heaven help the poor soul who rounded the corner to the finish thinking they were going to win with Anne still on their heels. Above and beyond all else, running taught Anne the important life lessons about hard work, grit and discipline. She has learned them so well.”

Anne McKee said she started running when she was 7-years-old in the Old Hallowell Day fun run.

Anne McKee takes a break for a drink Saturday during her run home to Hallowell from Bowdoin College to celebrate her graduation. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

McKee, 21, who currently works at Longfellow’s Greenhouses in Manchester, graduated with a degree in history and environmental studies and a minor in Japanese.

She learned recently she has received a fellowship through the Island Institute, a Rockland-based nonprofit that works to support the state’s 15 year-round island communities.

McKee will live and work on Islesboro, a small, island community in Penobscot Bay, for the next two years, filling myriad roles, including expanding its farmers’ market, promoting sustainability, helping with the local school and, she hopes, helping coach student who are also runners.

On Saturday morning McKee’s boyfriend, Tyler DeAngelis, a 2015 Bowdoin graduate, ran all but the first mile with her, and her sister, Kate McKee, ran the last mile with her.

McKee’s parents, Walter McKee and wife, Kristin Aiello, traveled the route by car to make sure the runners had plenty of food and water along the way. Friends also joined her for parts of the run.

The runners made it to Hallowell well before the early afternoon Bowdoin College virtual graduation, which included a video presentation and speeches. McKee said all of this year’s graduates are invited to come back to Bowdoin next year — hopefully, with coronavirus concerns well behind them — for an in-person celebration.

McKee joked she is glad she went to Bowdoin College in Brunswick, not the University of California, which would have been a bit far for her to run home.

She said one of the benefits she loves most about running is the feeling of peace it provides. She described running as something great one can do for oneself physically and mentally.

While Saturday’s run was more about celebration and destination than time, McKee and the other runners covered the distance at an average pace of eight minutes and 45 seconds per mile.

“That was totally faster than we anticipated going,” she said. “The energy of everybody around us carried us the whole way.”

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