If you’re looking for a feel-good story in the news this is it. Kyle Lang ran through Plevna, Baker, Bowman, and Hettinger July 6 on his 2,967-mile run across the United States from North Cove, Wash. to Coney Island, N.Y. His venture is titled Running United 2017 as he is raising money to give back to nonprofits in three communities that have had a major impact on his life. These include Great Rivers United Way, Special Olympics New Jersey, and Every Hand Joined.
By Angel Wyrwas
For The Herald
“Kyle first mentioned the idea to do this run the Christmas of his freshman year of college,” said parents Mike and Cheryl Lang. Kyle has been running for a long time but characterizes himself as a ‘middle of the pack runner’. “He thought he just needed to run farther so he ran a few marathons,” said dad Mike. But Kyle still needed more distance. By the next summer they were planning his run.
Kyle’s parents are educators in Wisconsin and devoted their summer to helping Kyle with his mission. “We are seeing the U.S. two miles at a time,” said Mike. “People are so nice in Montana. They all pull over to see if we’re ok since we are on the side of the road. It also gives us new people to talk to.”
Kyle’s parents’ job is full time on the road. “We have to find time to buy groceries, do laundry, fill the camper with water and find cell service while not leaving Kyle on the road very long,” said Cheryl.
They keep him hydrated and try to get him the 8000-10,000 calories he needs per day to run. “It’s great having them along, helping me,” said Kyle.
His older brother Zachary is also part of the team. He is taking care of their home and updates the blog chronicling Kyle’s run. “We are relying on him to do everything else,” said Cheryl.
When Kyle ran through Baker, he was on day 32 of his estimated 75-day run. “There has definitely been a learning curve,” said Kyle. He suffered an injury early on with a stress fracture in his foot and severe shin splints from running the mountains. He had to rest which put him a day behind.
Some of the path had to be rerouted along the way as well. “We detoured around a mountain pass that we wouldn’t have been able to tow our camper through,” said Cheryl. “It added miles and extra time that we hadn’t planned for.” But Kyle ran up and over the pass, even with the snow. Another time they had to reroute around a military base that wasn’t on the map.
Kyle knows endurance. He started training in January, working his way up to 120 miles per week. That is a lot of running but what is even more surprising is that he committed to it and found time to run all those miles while completing his sophomore year at Princeton University!
He is running around 40 miles per day this summer. A typical day starts with 20 miles from 6 -11a.m. Then Kyle is back on the road from 12:30-4 p.m. for another 13-15 miles and then between 5-7 p.m. he finishes 7-10 more miles. He is on his feet for about 10 hours per day logging 85,000 steps. No wonder Kyle is rotating through nine pair of shoes and changing them three times a day.
The route that Kyle is running will go through his hometown in Wisconsin. There are already plans to celebrate and encourage him as he runs through the La Crosse area around July 14. “United Way will be hosting some recognition on his way through,” said Mike. “Other people will be scheduled to run a mile with Kyle.”
“I want to make my run 3,000 miles of prayer, offering up each mile for a different intention, perhaps a small way to unite the United States. Because it is by running, and more importantly by living outside of ourselves that we are able to find lasting meaning and wellness in our lives,” said Kyle.
Kyle and his parents start everyday with prayer and continue it throughout the day. “I tried listening to music and audio books but it just didn’t work,” said Kyle. “I just couldn’t concentrate on running.” Instead the hours of running offer him peace, a clear mind and quiet. Kyle goes through four rosaries through the course of the day. “It seems that saying the same prayer over and over matches the rhythm of one foot in front of the other.”
Kyle has a place on his website for people to fill out for what he has termed ‘intentions’. If there is something someone would like him to run for they can submit it there. “If there is a single portion of this run that means the most to me it is the intentions,” explains Kyle. “The intentions allow me to keep at the forefront of my mind why I am running: for others. They also remind me that I cannot do this alone.” The intentions don’t cost anything and Kyle wants to have each mile he runs dedicated to a different intention.
As for the fundraising mission of his run, Kyle’s goal is “to give back” to communities, particularly organizations that carry special significance for him. “United Way works with the rest of the community to support families,” the 20-year-old said, adding his gratitude for being raised in a stable family with economic security.
Another nonprofit that will benefit from his run is Every Hand Joined, a Red Wing, Minn., organization where he interned last summer through a Princeton program. Every Hand Joined is a cradle-to-grave initiative that focuses on six areas — early childhood, alleviating childhood hunger, youth enrichment, math, literacy and college/career readiness.
The third beneficiary will be Special Olympics New Jersey, located near the Princeton campus. “It allows other athletes to chase their own dreams, like I have been able to chase mine,” Kyle said.
To sponsor a mile, make a donation of $29.67 or more at www.kylelangruns.com. None of the money donated via the website is handled by Kyle. Great Rivers United Way is the fiscal agent for this event, so upon donating, you will receive a receipt from them. Please know that all proceeds will be dispersed among the three recipient organizations.
“I am learning that maybe the “best runner” I committed to becoming at a young age is not the fastest or the strongest or the one who puts in the most miles,” said Kyle. “Maybe the best runner Kyle Lang can be is one who runs for others, whether it’s one mile across campus or 2,967 miles across the United States.”