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The RECORD Spring 2013 - Kevin Kwilinski

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Going the Extra Mile

January is a month when many Americans reflect on the excesses of the holidays and contemplate their ability to keep New Year’s resolutions of eating more nutritiously or exercising more regularly. For Kevin Kwilinski and his wife, Amy, January 2013 meant an opportunity to test the limits of their physical fitness. After months of discipline and focused training, they traveled from their home in northern Illinois to Texas’ cowboy country to compete in a grueling ultra-marathon, the Bandera 50K/100K. Amy ran the 50K course, and Kevin took a second loop around the course to complete the 100K.

Amy and Kevin KwilinskiThe Kwilinskis answered our questions about the Bandera race, training for an ultra and their motivation for endurance running.

Q: Was this your first ultra-marathon?

Amy: This was a first ultra for both of us. We have run quite a few marathons, but grew interested in seeing what else we could do in the last year or so. We enjoy traveling together and doing destination races. It's great to share this hobby.

Q: How many half-marathons or marathons have you run, prior to this event?

Kevin: I’ve run 12 marathons and a handful of half marathons.

Amy: I've completed eight marathons and three half-marathons in recent years, as well as many other race distances since high school. I also have completed a few triathlons in the last two years. I ran my first 5k when I was 12, in Kalamazoo, MI. I still have the postcard I received in the mail with my results. I was the first girl to run cross-country at both my small high school in Michigan and at Greenville College, which meant that I wore a men’s uniform that first season! Kevin and I have enjoyed some of the famous races in the U.S. as we've moved around.

Q: Why did you decide to run the Bandera trail race?

Amy: Kevin talked me into it. Last summer he signed up for the Comrades Marathon in South Africa. A few weeks later he asked me to "go with him" to Africa, and I said I would. He clarified that he meant I should run it! Comrades is a 56-mile run, and in a foolhardy moment, I agreed. A few weeks later he realized we needed to build up to that distance, so he found Bandera.

Kevin: At the beginning of 2010 I set a goal to qualify for the Boston Marathon, which requires a finishing time of three hours and 20 minutes or less. I had been running casually, but hadn’t completed a marathon in several years. In October 2010, I ran the Chicago Marathon in 3:08. I ran the Boston Marathon the following April. My next goal was a sub-three hour marathon. I hired Luke Humphrey who is a coach and runner with the Hansons-Brooks Original Distance Project to coach me online. In October 2012 I completed the Chicago marathon in 2:57. At that point I decided I had about tapped out my speed potential for marathons, and I wanted to do something less predictable, something I didn't know if I could do.

I was ready to sign up for the Bandera 50K when I noticed there was also a 100K event. If you complete the 100K in less than 24 hours you can earn a silver belt buckle instead of a medal. Having run many marathons and received numerous medals, I really wanted the belt buckle. I signed up to run the 100K instead, which is two loops of the 50K course, for a total of 62 miles.

Q: When did you begin training for the ultra?

Kevin: I really haven't stopped running 50-75 miles a week since the start of 2010. In the weeks leading up to Bandera, I increased my mileage and even ran a weekly total of 100 miles three weeks before Bandera.

Amy: I began doing longer weekend long runs after the Chicago Marathon, where I had paced a friend during her first marathon. I have a running coach, and she began increasing the mileage gradually each weekend.

Q: What do you like about running?

Kevin: I developed a life long habit of running after college. I came to enjoy running very much, not just for physical exercise but also as a time to mentally relax and think about things. I have some of my most creative moments on long runs.

Amy: I love the feeling of accomplishment and strength that I get from running. Even on days when I feel tired, I usually feel better after I run.

Q: I imagine this sets quite an example for your four children. What did they say after you successfully completed the 50K and 100K runs, respectively?

Amy: I think they see that regular, daily exercise is important, and hopefully they also see that we continue to do what we love and face new challenges as we get older. I am going to be the coach for my son's middle school cross-country team starting this fall, and I am really getting excited about that.

Kevin: They were very interested in the outcome and were texting and messaging us to find out our status. They seemed truly amazed that a person could run that far.

In June 2013, Amy and Kevin will travel to South Africa to run in the oldest ultra marathon in the world, the Comrades Marathon. It was established after World War I to honor South African soldiers who had fought and died in the war. The 56-mile run will take them over several very large hills in hot weather.

The Kwilinskis will use the opportunity to raise funds for Drs. Joel and Janette Miller, Greenville College alumni who are medical missionaries in Burundi.