A few months ago, I was reading author Chris McDougall’s blog and learned about Mr. Yijoo Kwon’s cross country trek. I found myself checking his site daily to watch his progress across the United States. I then noticed that his projected path would take him within miles of our home…and thought, “How cool would that be to go running with Mr. Kwon!”
Fast forward to last night when I realized he was well ahead of schedule..in Pennsylvania..and set to start his 88th straight day of running from Oxford, PA. So, naturally, I packed my running stuff in the kitchen, set the alarm for o-dark-thirty, and set out to run with the legend, Mr. Yijoo Kwon.
The next morning, I saw his white station wagon adorned with his flags and signs and excitedly approached to meet him. His greeting was if I was a long lost friend: a warm welcome considering it was 4:00 am and an even warmer welcome considering this man had already run over 2,900 miles in a quest that started in California at Santa Monica pier 88 days ago!
We started at a comfortable pace through the farms and corn fields of Oxford, PA – breathtaking. His smile and urging of a slower pace was a veteran move to my less-experienced excitement-driven pace. He was fully aware that the rolling hills of Route 1 would take their toll on our legs in the hours to come. Being over 25 years my senior, I felt like he definitely had the upper hand in strength and endurance and would come to believe that even more as his water breaks seemed to seconds when I longed for a few more minutes.
His support crew of his wife and photographer followed closely behind in the station wagon and pulled over every few hours to offer us water, Gatorade, and fruit. Every person that beeped, waved, or stopped to say hello were not disappointed. He generously gave out enthusiastic thumbs-up, waves, cheers, and often even information fliers passed from the car window from Mrs. Kwon.
I found out that Mr. Kwon was on his 7th pair of shoes and that he was largely in charge of directions and logistics…no small feat when crossing our great nation! Mrs. Kwon, a marathoner herself, was always ready with nutrition, first aid, and leg rubs for her ultra-marathoning husband. They were a great team.
While I never directly asked, Why are you doing this?”, Mr. Kwon’s message seemed clear enough with regards to Diabetes awareness – it’s a call to action. His actions seemed to scream, “If I can do it than so can you!”. In the column of “How is he doing this?”, I would suggest his recipe is a mix of willpower, determination and large dose of positive attitude. His smile communicated volumes of information about the person he was; about his care for others; and about the force that propels him from within.
Running with Mr. Kwon was an honor. And while his running accomplishment is mind-boggling and a great feat…it’s greatly over-shadowed by his kindness and strength of character. Thank you, Mr. Kwon, my friend…great run!