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Intelligent Machines

Morgan Cummings '09

Alumna sets marathon record

The summer before her senior year, most of Morgan Cummings’s friends were immersed in 100-hour-a-week internships, but her internship at Levin & Company, an HR consulting firm, required just 40. Cummings surveyed the options for her free time and made a decision: she would run.

“I had never run a race of any distance before, so I decided to sign up for a marathon,” explains Cummings, a Course XV management grad who now works as a pricing analyst at United and associated airlines. “That way I’d have a goal to work toward.”

This story is part of the May/June 2011 Issue of the MIT News magazine
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Cummings ran her first marathon in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 2008 and liked it so much that she kept going. Next she ran the Boston Marathon in 2009 and then, after starting her airline job, used her benefits to travel to marathons in San Francisco and New Mexico. Within two years of her first marathon, she had become the youngest woman to run marathons in every state as well as Washington, DC.

“I didn’t even know there was a record until I was almost halfway done with the states,” says Cummings. “I like to think of the record-breaking as kind of an accident.”

That’s typical of Cummings’s low-key ways. She has never had a personal trainer. She crashes on friends’ couches or in rental cars when she travels, and before race day she prefers pizza and beer to pasta and bread. And while she runs, she grins.

“I just love to be out there running. I love getting to chat with other runners and share stories,” says Cummings, who met her boyfriend at a marathon in Delaware. “That was a life-changing event for me,” she says. “A week after we met, we literally coördinated our running schedules and have never spent a weekend apart since.”

As much as she loves running, it’s not always easy. She developed a stress fracture in her hip and didn’t stop even after it became a full-fledged break. Photos from the 2010 Missoula Marathon in Montana show her limping by on crutches.

Cummings attributes her drive to persevere, in part, to MIT.

“I was never on a running team in college,” she says, “but so much of what we learned at MIT translates into the running world … When I’m working on travel routings to optimize my chances of making a [standby] flight, I honestly think back to the logistics problems in 15.053. I’ve had to be creative at times, but I’ve never missed a race due to not making a flight. I don’t think I’d be able to say that if I hadn’t gone to MIT.”

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