On August 9, local runner Dan Zimerman will run 100 miles from New York to Philadelphia to raise funds and awareness for the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.
Courtesy Dan Zimerman

by Andrew Garda
garda@montclairlocal.news

Montclair resident Dan Zimerman has watched the problems at the southern border of the United States — the detention camps, the crowds, the separated families — and felt helpless.

And also like a lot of Montclair residents, Zimerman decided he needed to do something. In his case, it’s the Liberty 100, a 100-mile run from Ellis Island Bridge, in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, to Constitution Hall in Philadelphia.

“So, it’s 100 miles from one point to the other,” Zimerman said on a recent phone call. “Connecting the idea of constitutional rights, and the fact that this country was founded on immigrants. That it stands [as] a light unto the world, a beacon of safety and hope and opportunity.”

Zimerman created the Liberty 100. It only exists due to his love of running and his urge to do something to help those in need at the border. He is also the only official participant, and will be running much of it solo.

“I love to run, I was going to do this anyway,” he said. “But running feels like such a selfish act. It’s all for me, right? I do it because I enjoy the experience, it’s rewarding, and it’s fun to be outside, so I love to run. Given the reality of what’s going on [at the border] there was a nice opportunity to tie it in.”

Zimerman will be starting his run on Aug. 9, the day he turns 54. He only began running when he was 48, but said he felt that as he got older, staying active was important. 

“I was 30 years old a second ago, I’m going to be 70 a second from now and I want to be able to be active as I get older and in my later years,” he said.  “And anyone can run. It’s a learned thing, like guitar. At first you’re going to hate it because it’s difficult to play the guitar. It’s hard and your fingers are going to bleed. It’s the same thing with running. It takes three, four, five weeks to get a rhythm and a flow.”

Zimerman does most of his running in the evening. He also leads the Thursday night group from the Montclair Running Company and runs with Fueled By Donuts, a running club based here.

Both organizations have run for charity before, so the idea of doing so on his own isn’t surprising.

“I was feeling a little helpless and not knowing what to do except making a donation here or there, I thought I’d use my running to raise funds and draw attention to what’s going on at the southern border,” he said.

While Zimerman is running the length of it, he won’t be alone the entire time. In addition to the friends who will set up checkpoints for water and food along the course, some other people will run segments with him.

“A lot of the local running community is going to be coming out and joining us and I encourage anyone who wants to run a few miles with us to do so,” he said.  “I’ll be going nice and slow so no worries about speed. “

While he encourages anyone who is interested to run along with him, he and his team of supporters will also be posting updates to his Facebook and Instagram pages. There will be pictures, videos and other posts chronicling his journey from New York City to Philadelphia, a trip he expects to take about 24 hours to complete. Zimerman’s Instagram handle is DZimerman and his Facebook can be found by searching his name.

Even if you can’t make it out or can’t stay up to watch him all night on Instagram, Zimerman said that a donation page has been set up on the American Civil Liberties Union website (accessible here), with funds going to support humanitarian efforts at the border. As of Tuesday, July 9, Zimerman had raised nearly $1,000. 

“I encourage everyone to donate, [whether] $1 to $1,000, it’s not about the total amount, it’s the feeling that you can participate,” he said. “And you can do something constructive about what’s going on with immigrants at our border. You don’t have to feel helpless, throw your hands in the air and think you can’t do anything. In fact, you can.”

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