MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — What inspires a person to run a marathon? It’s grueling. It’s punishing. Forget the race; that’s just the training.

But doing that all during the middle of the cross-country season?

Maquanet Collins felt it was so important, even if it affected his high school season for Apple Valley, for one simple goal: to raise money for clean water in Africa, through World Vision.

“Giving someone such a basic thing, like water, is something that kids especially should not have to worry about,” Maq said. “I was saved from that. I think that I can help other people get saved from that.”

Maq was born in Ethiopia, and their family struggled. After his mother died, his father determined that he could no longer care for then 4-year-old Maq and his younger sister Bete, and he placed them in an orphanage.

Jeff Collins first met Maq and Bete when he and his wife Margaret were in Ethiopia to adopt their first daughter, Mitike.

“There were these two children, among the other children there,” Jeff said. “And then later that year when we’d come home, noticed they were on a waiting list, through our adoption agency. Thought about it, prayed about it, was thinking, ‘Oh, hopefully they find a family.’ A few months later they were highlighted again, and we decided … they’re supposed to be a part of our family.”

When they arrived back in Ethiopia to pick them up, Maq ran into their arms.

“It’s kind of indescribable,” Margaret said.

Maq’s life now is one he couldn’t be more grateful for. He’s flourishing as a student, and their family is close. Asked if he thinks about how different his life could’ve been, he admits he does.

“When we came here, we were all sick from bad water,” he said. “But the fact that I get to be here right now is amazing, I don’t know where I would be.”

As he was running the marathon, it wasn’t hard to remember what he was running for.

“It was so personal to him,” Jeff said. “It’s like, ‘I’m going to do this because I’ve been there.'”

Because as much as his life is in Minnesota now, he still feels a strong connection to where he came from.

“I am very prideful of being Ethiopian,” Maq said.

“Even the fact of going to eat a meal at a restaurant that serves authentic Ethiopian food, you see him just sit up a little bit more, and go, ‘Yep, this is part of who I am,'” Jeff said.

He’s reminded of it, every time he looks in the mirror. Above his eyes are evenly spaced scars.

“They would slit the eyebrows, and they thought it would stop eye infection,” Maq said. “I usually get questions. … Some people say it looks awesome. Some like, ‘That’s weird.’ But I think it’s pretty awesome.”

Maq has raised almost $500 with his marathon. That will give 10 people in Africa clean water for life.

“My first thought is that his dad would be so proud of him,” Margaret said. “He’s such a good student, and just this beautiful human being as well. I think his dad would be so, so proud of him.”

“I’m in a position where I can give back,” Maq said. “So why not do that?”

Turns out the marathon didn’t hurt Maq’s cross-country season at all. He earned all-conference honorable mention just five days after the marathon.

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