Ian Saarmann runs the Boston Marathon to inspire Special Olympics athletes

Author: Quinn Roddy

Next Monday, Ian Saarmann will race in the 125th Boston Marathon after raising a whopping $17,000 for the Special Olympics Massachusetts Xtra Mile Marathon Team. As the sports and fitness director for Living Independently Forever Inc. (LIFE), Ian’s relationship with Special Olympics MA has been monumental.

LIFE Inc. has three separate locations and the program supports adults with autism and learning and intellectual disabilities in their pursuit of a meaningful, healthy, independent life. Ian has been the sports and fitness director there for the better part of two decades and helps LIFE members stay active and live healthy lifestyles. The fitness program at LIFE has seen sharp growth in the past few years and around 100 LIFE residents participate in Special Olympics events—Ian has helped these athletes with their fitness and nutrition so that they can compete at their highest level.

Special Olympics MA athlete (L) poses with Ian Saarmann (R).

“Competing in Special Olympics means everything to our residents,” said Ian. “The enthusiasm for Special Olympics is off the charts and that includes the families too. These athletes thrive on real competition. They have a lot of pride in what they do, and learning to be teammates on and off the field has helped them grow in a huge way.” Ian sees himself as a fitness role model for LIFE residents—so what better way to show that then by running in one of the most prestigious marathons in the world.

While the pandemic has been difficult on everyone, it has been an especially hard on non-profit organizations. “For the last two years it’s been difficult to raise money. Just to be able to fill up our budget again and get some money, especially with our growing program, means a lot,” said Ian. “It’s been a really rough 18 months for our resident not being able to compete and be out there with their friends, they’re very excited to be back out there again.”

Ian has run marathons in the past, but this will be his first time running the Boston Marathon. He has been enjoying the training process so far and plans on ‘carbo-loading’ up on pasta before he hits the ground running on October 11th. “I’m really doing this for the residents…and hopefully I’m able to drag my old bones around Boston for a while to prove to them that we can still do these type of things,” said Ian. “Hopefully it’s inspiring them a little bit and they’re very excited about it.”


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