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    Running Her Own Race

    Running Her Own Race

    Photo By Billie Suttles | 223rd Officer Basic Course student 1st Lt. Kimberly Finnegan is pictured in front of...... read more read more



    Story by Jane Lee 

    The Judge Advocate General's Legal Center and School

    CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – “I had only ever been in cross country, for one season, about 25 years prior,” said 1st Lt. Kimberly Finnegan. “I was the slowest kid. I’m not sure the race was still going on when I finished – unlikely.

    “I have now finished close to a hundred races. But I’m still at the back of the pack, I own it.”

    The 223rd Officer Basic Course student at The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School didn’t run her first 5K until May 2019. Finnegan then tackled her first half marathon in October of that same year and has been chasing the runner’s high ever since. “I do my best work when I am physically active,” explained Finnegan. “To that end, I prioritize physical activity and taking time to focus on my mental wellbeing.”

    Placing a premium on mental toughness and physical fitness wasn’t always the case. Finnegan initially embarked on her wellness journey to become more competitive for the military. “Like a lot of girls growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, I played with dolls. But my friend and I developed elaborate WWII era back stories for ours,” joked Finnegan. “On a more serious note, 9/11 had a profound impact … I saw the world as a dark and scary place for the first time … but I also saw people who stepped up to help others, putting their own safety and security to the side.

    “I wanted to do something beyond my comfort zone and in service of others. But it took me a long time to figure out how I could plug into the military. To my knowledge, I am the first woman in my family to serve.”

    Even though her paternal grandfather, eight great-uncles and three cousins had served in various branches since WWII, Finnegan first learned about the JAG Corps through her oldest cousin, a major still in the Minnesota Air Guard. Her supervisor at Legal Services of Eastern Missouri (LSEM), Jon Althauser, was also a former Army judge advocate. “The JAG Corps seemed like the perfect landing spot, given my love of academia, devotion to our constitutional principles, and commitment to helping others,” said the Midwesterner. “The Guard was particularly attractive due to the interplay of federal and state law.

    “Working for the people of my home state, especially in times of unrest or disaster, had huge appeal as well. Not to mention the chance to serve on missions around the world.”

    With her sights firmly set on selfless service, Finnegan committed to becoming the best version of herself. “Getting up the nerve to apply took years,” confessed Finnegan. “I didn’t feel like I could meet the physical demands or that I had much to offer.”

    What started with the MO’ Cowbell Half Marathon in Saint Charles, Missouri at the age of 35, has turned into a personal challenge to run a half marathon in every state. To date, she has crossed about a dozen states off her list. “My hardest was the One City Half Marathon in Newport News, Virginia. I had just run the Coast Guard Half Marathon and 5K [in North Carolina] the preceding two days,” explained Finnegan. “I wanted to meet my goal of running three races in a row. My most fun was the Mississippi Gulf Coast Half Marathon in Biloxi. The race runs parallel to the beach … the after party included locally made gumbo and craft beer.

    “My most memorable was the Des Moines Half Marathon. I achieved a PR (personal record) on a day I had planned to run for fun. I connected with an awesome pacer who encouraged me at just the right time in the race.”

    “During a run, I can clear my mind of all the clutter. I engage in a lot of positive self-talk,” said the licensed clinical social worker. “I don’t make a huge distinction between physical health and mental health. It’s intertwined. I am passionate about encouraging people to get outdoors and move to promote wellness.” It’s that whole body approach that enables Finnegan the lawyer to better serve her rural, mostly low-income clients on a pro-bono basis. Her primary focus is on families and individuals who often lack access to internet, public transit, education and essential healthcare services.

    “As a holistic practitioner, I find it impossible to address a problem without care for the person,” said Finnegan. “Working with a trauma-informed, race-equity, person-first lens is vital to sustaining a career in the legal field and avoiding burnout.

    “My toughest case was helping a mother and her eight children who were facing eviction. Our team at LSEM was able to challenge the eviction in court, secure rental assistance and find donors to provide a holiday meal. Providing these wrap-around services made my toughest case my most rewarding.”



    Date Taken: 04.24.2024
    Date Posted: 04.24.2024 09:23
    Story ID: 469240

    Web Views: 55
    Downloads: 0