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Attorney takes on marathon to raise money for AVAM

Attorney Matthew F. Gorra will be keeping time this weekend in minutes per mile, not billable hours.

Matthew F. Gorra

Matthew F. Gorra

Gorra decided a few weeks ago to run the Baltimore Marathon on Oct. 13. Most people train for months before a marathon, and Gorra said he had not run more than six miles at a time in more than two years. The marathon is just over 26 miles.

Gorra is taking on the last-minute run as a way to raise money for the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, for which he is a board member.

“I thought, ‘Maybe I will try to do something a little bit different here,’” Gorra said.

He is hoping to get 100 people to support his run by signing up for a $100 annual membership at the museum — and he’s promised to refund any donations if he does not complete the marathon in under four hours.

No one has raised money for the museum through a marathon fundraiser before, said Rebecca Hoffberger, founder and director of the museum. So far, about 25 people have committed to museum memberships.

“Anything that makes one of our board members more buff and benefits the museum has to be the perfect storm,” Hoffberger said.

Those who want to donate to Gorra’s campaign can do so by filling out a form on the museum’s website, Hoffberger said.

“Nothing is stronger than a personal endorsement,” Hoffberger said. “It’s the best advertising. The fact that someone as lovely as Matt is totally smitten with the museum is great. It’s kindling to spread the fire of good news of the museum to a much wider audience.”

Though Gorra is a runner, he last ran a marathon two years ago.

“I certainly have been through the rigors of training and have gotten over the fear of the length,” Gorra said.

The memory of a grueling six-mile uphill stretch of the race convinced him he would never run the race again, though.

Gorra usually runs four to five miles three times a week, getting up at 6 a.m. He usually runs around upper Fells Point, Canton and the Inner Harbor before heading to work at DLA Piper U.S. LLP’s Baltimore headquarters in Mount Washington.

Gorra ran the NCR Trail in Hunt Valley three weeks ago right after he decided to run the marathon. He said he planned to run until he felt tired, then turn around and run back. He said he ran about 20 miles in total. The next weekend, he took a 10-mile run.

“I knew I had to get longer runs in, and the only way is to go and see how long I can go,” Gorra said.

Gorra started running in his free time after he graduated from Middlebury College and continued to run while attending Cornell Law School.

“The stress of the first semester of law school was crying out for an outlet,” Gorra said.

Though he has long been devoted to running, Gorra’s newest passion is volunteering at AVAM. He joined the museum’s board just a few months ago.

“My wife and I visit there and I thought, ‘This is a really special place. It’s definitely a unique museum.’”

In honor of the museum’s newest exhibit, “The Art of Storytelling: Lies, Enchantment, Humor & Truth,” Gorra is inviting supporters to submit six-word stories to him. The winning story, chosen by him and Hoffberger, will be printed on his T-shirt for the race.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Gorra said. “There are few things that compare to the experience of actually running the marathon itself. Training is long and difficult, but the reward is there.”