(I know Mr. Kendell Synder all of about 1 hour. I met Kendall between miles 9-10 of the marathon. I say met, we ended up running with each other for a good ways and I decided I needed to know his name if we were going to run together. I introduced myself and so did he. The first thing I noticed about Kendell was his amazing encouragement. Every single runner that we passed or that we would meet coming towards us, he would say "Good job", or "way to go". He always had something positive to say. After awhile his encouragement for others got my mind off of myself and onto other runners. After a few minutes, I sped up a bit and passed him. Probably about a mile later, I heard Kendall coming. I could hear is water bottle sloshing and I knew it was him. He caught up with me and asked how things were going. I told him good but that is was getting warm. He laughed and said,"yeah, it is getting pretty warm. I don't think I am going to make my goal time, but oh well!"
Kendell and I played tag through the miles. He would pass me and then I would pass him and then we would run together for a bit. Near the end of the race I had passed him and I was riding the struggle bus for sure! At one point I remember thinking, I wish Kendell would get up here, I could use someone to push me. I did not see him and until after the race was over and there he was giving out encouragement despite the fact that we both had bombed the race lol)
I asked Kendell a series a questions to get to know him more. Here is his interview:
1. When did you first start running? Did you take a break and then start back?
"I originally started in 1979 as a 17 year old when I joined the Marines. I ran as part of the Corps physical fitness program until I got out in 1982. After I got out, I ran some but not consistently. I became a firefighter in 1987, and began running again in order to stay in shape. During that period, I ran a couple times a week, very inconsistently, also competed in a few 5k's and 10k's. I also competed as part of the Fire Departments Combat Challenge team, a firefighter based competition. Running was a way to maintain cardio, however, never a "thing" unto itself. I didn't hate running, but never really loved it either. By the late 90's I had been promoted to Battalion Chief, which meant I spent a lot more time in the office behind a desk,I pretty much quit running then. I started again in June of 2014, just to see if I could run, I could not, at least not very well! But, I worked at it a little while and found a new passion."
2. What was it that started you running?
"In 2011, the kids were out of the house, gone on to their lives; I retired from the Fire Department after 25 years, taking a job with the State. I was looking for stress reduction and a chance to focus on something other than kids and work. Rhonda had also changed jobs, trading a very high stress, demanding job in the airline industry for a much less demanding job with a local nonprofit. We spent the next couple of years learning to live without kids and stress, and found out we liked it! (We do miss the kids!) Mentally, we were in a really good place, but we both knew we needed to make some physical changes.
During the 2013 holidays we made some changes to our eating and started walking daily and by June of 2014 I had lost about 40lbs. I was out of town on a business trip and just wanted to see if I could still run. Made it about a quarter mile and thought I was going to die!! LOL! After I returned home, I started going out early mornings about 4-5 times a week, started using C25K (Couch to 5K) app on my phone and gradually worked up to running 3 miles nonstop. I did my first 5k in September of 2014, I think around 31 minutes. Somewhere during that time I fell in love with the run. Pushing myself, seeing improvements, doing things I couldn’t believe I was doing! Now, running is a very healing, introspective time for me. It has become a way for me to take care of me.
Running has also become a way for me to grow socially. I have always been a bit of a loner. As I started running in local races and getting out to the local running areas, I gradually assimilated into the local running community, and found a wonderful group of people that I didn’t know existed! Most of the folks I met were extremely encouraging and supportive. Nobody cares what you do for a living, how much money you make, it is all about the running! Everybody is at their own place in the running journey; however we all have shared experiences, defeats and victories!! It is very cool to have people you don’t know encouraging you, and even cooler to be able to encourage and support others. I have learned so much from running folks, and not just about running, lots of good life lessons out there! Rhonda has also started running within the last 18 months, so although we are at very different paces and don’t often run “together” it is an activity we share."
3. Me: What is your occupation and how do you fit running into your schedule?
" I work for the State of Arkansas as the State Fire Service Coordinator, basically an office job, 7:00 to 3:30. I normally run at 4:00 am - 4:30 am in the morning on weekdays. Normal weekday run (Monday, Wed., Thurs.) is 5-6 miles on neighborhood streets. I love to run in the early morning dark or right at sunrise. We are fortunate to have a high school about a half mile from the house, so on Tuesday mornings I run to the track and do a track workout (in the dark), for an hour or so. I do long runs on Saturday mornings, very early, so that Rhonda and I have most of the day together. Sundays we go to the gym and I row for 45 minutes to an hour, along with some weight work. As part of my job, I travel occasionally and spend the night out of town several nights a year. I love early morning runs in a new city. Hot Springs and Fayetteville are two of my favorites in Arkansas."
4. Me: Do you eat a certain way because you run? What is your daily diet?
"Cooking and eating is something that Rhonda and I do together, we love food, and love to cook together. However we have come to recognize that food is fuel and it is important to know what you are eating. As part of our weight loss lifestyle change, we never really cut out any particular food items; we did realize that some things (cake, candy, chips, etc.) didn’t really contribute a lot nutritionally, so they needed to be limited. We are not particularly “clean” eaters, but we do try to follow the five servings of fruits and veggies daily rule and limit processed junk. We are a lot pickier about the restaurants we eat at, no fast food. Our restaurants of choice are mostly local places that serve real food and reasonable portions.
When I was first learning about caloric content, and figuring out what I had been eating, I was amazed to learn how many calories I had been drinking! Milk, cokes, juice, etc all added up!! The result of that is that I rarely drink calories, the exception being Recoverite after long runs. My other favorite post long run snack is a banana and PB on Ritz crackers. Post race meals involve cheeseburgers or Pizza!!
Breakfast on weekdays (after my run) is two eggs, bacon and rye toast. On long runs or race days, I eat 1 piece of rye bread, peanut butter and jelly about an hour before I run. I usually carry leftovers to work for lunch, about 500-600 calories, including two veggies and some sort of fruit (usually a banana!)
In the summer we grill most of the time. For supper, pork chops, various cuts of beef and chicken or fish once a week or so, again along with a baked sweet potato and other veggies. In the winter, we tend to eat a lot of soup, often with cornbread or buttered toasted bread of some sort. Chili, beef and barley soup, vegetable beef soup and split pea soup are some of the favorites. We also are fond of lasagna, pizza and Mexican food and eat those occasionally; homemade of course, we get to control what’s in it! Not your traditional diet foods, but things we enjoy and can live with, in moderation.
My favorite night before, pre race, pre long run meal is some sort of grilled protein and a baked sweet potato. During runs, I like Huma gels and Honey Stinger waffles. I use Nuun in my water bottle for electrolyte replacement. For snacks I like cottage cheese and fruit, most often blueberries and strawberries, I also like canned peaches or applesauce. I almost always eat popcorn as an evening snack.
Since Christmas 2013, I have lost about 100 lbs, and have maintained the same weight (167, high was 26 something) since March of 2015. During my weight loss period, a lot of folks said things like “you run so much, that’s why you lost weight” I always like to point out, I lost half the weight before I ever began to run, weight is all about the food! Eating should be enjoyable, but we need to know what we are eating. I think folks should know, it only takes awareness and a few changes to make a big difference."
5. Me: What is your choice running shoe?
" Although I usually keep a couple of different shoes in rotation, Adidas Glide has been my go to shoe. I am growing quite fond of the Nike Vomero here lately. The Altra Lone Peak is my trail shoe of choice."
6. Me: What is your most memorable run?
"Probably the first time I ran over 15 miles. At the time, I had been strictly running alone; I didn’t really know what I was doing as far as in-run nutrition, hydration, etc. I had done some reading and some internet browsing but was having a hard time putting it all together, had been really struggling to get much into the double digits. One Saturday morning early I was out doing my long run, no particular mileage goal other than over 10, and as the miles ticked off, I just felt better and better. I had brought some run nutrition (gel and a granola bar) I was feeling good, went by the 10 mile turnaround point, then 12, then 14! I ended up doing almost 16 miles and it just felt amazing!! I ran the last couple of miles grinning like an idiot just thinking “I just ran 15 miles” truly awesome!! To steal someone else’s words (I can’t remember who), “there is magic in the misery!!” I still occasionally think about that run, and still grin like a fool!
Another very memorable run was Spa City 5k last year, I ran it with Rhonda, and her goal was to run the entire race, no walk breaks. It was also the first race I stayed with her the whole race, it was very cool to see her push hard, overcome the pain and then meet her goals and cross the finish line."
7. Me: What is it about running that keeps you motivated to keep going?
"That’s a tough question! I think it is knowing how many years I wasted not being active and taking care of myself. I am very committed to my marriage and my wife, and I don’t want her to spend some number of years taking care of me in bad health. Together, we have made it through a lot of challenges over the past 30 years, I want us both to be able to enjoy all of the years we have left!
Through running, I also meet people who have many more obstacles than me who keep running and trying, I feel like it would be a shame for me not to keep going. During 3B26 this year, while running with you, I saw a man who had obviously suffered a stroke at some point; he was wearing gray sweats and a race bib, and walking with purpose (and some difficulty)! I later saw him near the finish line, although I didn’t get to see him cross. It was very inspirational. There is no telling the pain he went through to train and then walk the 26.2, I have no excuse.
I also truly love the run, particularly long, solitary runs. I have done a lot of trail running the past year, and love being out in the woods, alone. What a wonderful world we live in, not everybody gets to do what we do!"
8. Me: Anything else you want to share?
"Just that whether it is running, fitness classes or sports, keep moving! For runners specifically, don’t focus on time or pace. A lot of slower runners will apologize for being slow, I feel that pace is fairly unimportant, it is effort that counts. If you are working hard and giving your best on any given day, that’s all you can do, be proud! I will never run a 6 minute mile, I will, however, run many more miles at 100%,( I hope) you can’t do more than that! Pre said “to give less than your best is to sacrifice the gift” when I start slacking, I try to remember that."
9. Me: What is your fastest mile, 5k, 10, half marathon and marathon?
Mile: 6:24-last summer during a timed two mile
5k: 21:18 --Firecracker 5k 2016, Little Rock, AR
10K: 45:36 Capital City 10K Classic 2016
Half-marathon: 1:40:34-13.1 Little Rock, AR 2015
Marathon: 3:54:08-3 Bridges Marathon in Little Rock, AR
Worst Marathon: 4:23:39-3 Bridges Marathon in Little Rock, AR 2016
How can you not be inspired and motivated to be better after reading Kendell's journey?
You have given me a whole new outlook on running. An outlook that I always knew, just never put into practice like I should. The outlook that running is so much more than just about yourself. It is about others and how your motivate others while running. I recently raced a 15k and I told myself to be more like "Kendell". I wanted to take myself out of the race mentally and focus it on the other runners and I did! Every runner that I passed I would make a positive comment or cheer them on. I smiled the whole time, and the race was so much better and enjoyable than I could have imagined! Thank you Kendell for being the great example and inspiration you are to others! Keep running and keep motivating!!