IMG_0801Kyle Ayoung

It was a chilly morning in March and I found myself at the D.C. Armory parking and mentally preparing for the journey ahead, my first 13.1-mile half marathon. I’d been training since Christmas using the coach feature of the Nike Running app. It was not easy going from a slow walker to the running man in a short span of time while finding time between work and responsibilities as a fit father of four. For those of you that reside on the east coast you are well aware of the elements as snowstorm after snowstorm hit the region making road runs far and few between. Nevertheless, looking back, one of the most spiritually satisfying jogs I have journeyed thus far was a snowy, Saturday morning in January.

The air was crisp and clean and there was an indescribable essence of purity that touched my inner soul as I ran 5 miles that day. However, I missed many training runs. Some days were just too busy and others I was simply lazy. I attempted to make up assignments on the treadmill but running inside was not as rewarding as the great outdoors. What some may not know is that the treadmill has to be set to an incline to help simulate road running and maximize training results. I doubted my own ability at age 40 to obtain this goal and made excuses to justify the time off.

Simultaneous to training for the half marathon my family had decided to change our diet. We had taken on the 45-Day Vegan challenge organized by the Vegan Pro team. The transition to a plant-based lifestyle initially affected my preparation negatively as I fought with food choices and a bad attitude withdrawing from meat. Yet, two weeks into the vegan diet I was feeling lighter and had raised energy levels. I was not as sluggish to get out of bed in the morning and found that I had the energy to conquer my day and train without feeling exhausted. While this was my family’s personal choice I would suggest healthy eating for everyone and to practice the motto “eat to live.” Well past the 45 days veggie eating is now a norm. Race day came quickly, yet my body was properly fueled for the challenge.

0025t (1)Even though running is an individual sport, the vibe from all the other runners fed my soul and I felt their support. We were all in this together. I had not felt that level of excitement and trepidation since jetting down the tunnel onto the field at a football game. As I looked around, I saw others fixing their gear, tying sneakers and adjusting armbands. I too was programming my phone to record the distance and play my favorite motivational tunes. I met up with longtime friends that were also running and had traveled from Brooklyn, NY. On set, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series music was loud and as 7:30 am drew near the sun was beginning to shine down on Constitution Avenue and the starting line. The warmth of it rays further energized my body and I welcomed the starting cannon. I began the race in the 11th corral. At first it was hard to contain my excitement and my pace was a bit fast but by the time we passed the Lincoln monument I had found my rhythm.

Now I found myself in a sea of bodies jockeying for position with everyone trying to find their pace and place in the crowd. Around mile 4.5 I gently twisted my left knee passing a slower runner. This would prove to nag me for the duration of the half marathon but is also when I went into a shell and blocked everything and everyone out. It was just me, my music and the road. At mile 6 there was a short but steep hill that did not help my knee whatsoever and the pain increased. I refused to let that stop my progression so I pushed through. Over the next 4 miles I reflected on everything from my children to future plans and entrepreneurial endeavors. I controlled my breathing and the rest took care of its self. Before I knew it I was passing the 10-mile mark. At this point my body was screaming “stop” and my knee was throbbing so I decided to walk intermittently until the finish line. The cheers and motivation of spectators pushed me onward.

The last mile took everything I had mentally and physically. It showed me how resilient the mind and body are when working together. When I crossed the finish line and was given my medallion for completion I felt exhaustion physically, but spiritually the feeling of accomplishment overwhelmed any pain or ailment. I had done it and I will do it again. I’m hooked, hooked on a better life and hooked on fit fatherhood. Not only do I look forward to the next half marathon, but will also train for a century 100-mile bike ride. Stay tuned!