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Chasing the Light: Kyle Smith

Well, my story is typical of many young adults who are working and starting a family, with each child comes a few extra pounds (in my case 10 per kid x 4 kids) and pretty soon your pants don’t fit again. I finally got to the point I wasn’t going to buy the next size large pants so I started walking and eating healthier back in Jan of 2015. But my real story goes way back.

I was raised on a small dairy farm where I worked alongside my parents on a daily basis. I learned what hard physical labor was and the rewards that came with finishing a job. I can still smell the sweet smell of freshly cut alfalfa hay laying in the field drying but then knowing that in 3-4 days we would be baling hay and have all those hay bales to move. It was an odd relationship with baling hay, you knew the hard work was coming but the feely of accomplishment when it was over was awesome. Looking out over that field and see it was all baled up is similar to crossing the finish line at an ultramarathon. Standing at the start line or in the months of training leading up to it you know there is going to be a lot of hard work and sweat, but boy when you cross that finish line it was all worth it.

I had played football and track in high school, enjoyed lifting weights back then and into my college years, and was I felt physically fit for a large framed 6ft man. The track team was more so just to hang out with the girls but I enjoyed the field events, not so much the running. Then came the real-world job, wife, and 4 kids, pretty soon I was pushing 290lbs and I wasn’t happy with who I was. So in January of 2015, I started walking then running and somehow it all clicked. I lost 90lbs over 10 months and felt amazing. I ran a couple 5K and 10K local races and hoped I could just run the whole distance. Looking back now those are still my personal bests.

It was in January of 2016 when I was messing around on and I came across a race category that said “ultra”. My mind was just blown that people ran those distances as I was preparing for my first ½ marathon that year. The seed of an ultramarathon sat in the back of my mind that whole year and I signed up for my first 50k that fall. The 50k was June of 2017 and it went similarly to my previous ½ marathons. The first part great, the back ½ I developed knee and hip pain and it was a death march the finish line. Not wanting to lose my so-called fitness I signed up for a fall 50 mile race to see how far I could go. Same story. You know how it goes, same training, same results. The first 30 miles great, the last 20 miles a death march. I was happy finishing these ultras but knew I needed to approach training differently but didn’t know how. I was afraid to lift a bunch of weights like I did my younger days because I didn’t want to bulk up. 2018 came and went with a couple ultras and similar results, Mr. Death March to the finish line you could call me. I knew something had to give because I felt I could cover the distances both cardio wise and mentally, it's just my hips and knees wouldn’t take it.

Enter Michele Yates and Rugged Running, when I first read the word “Ultra” back in 2016 I became a fan of the sport. I remember reading an article about Michele at her comeback win at Run Rabbit Run back in 2018. It went on to talk about her struggles with hip problems and how she focused on hip and core strength to achieve her running goals and it clicked with me that this is what I need. I reached out to her for coaching and we made a plan for 2019. I was to be attempting my first 100k in the mountains and trying to finish a tough 50miler after a failed 1st attempt in 2018. Although those races in 2019 didn’t go exactly as I had hoped I definitely was a better runner, stronger runner, and more prepared. I have continued to use Michele because her training plans help me be that better, stronger, and more prepared runner. In 2020 I competed in my first 24-hour race in racked in 75 miles, a 5hr nap overnight, and finished feeling like I could have just kept running forever.

2021 has pushed me into my 40th year on this planet and I will be attempting the Black Hills 50 mile race for the 3rd time and will complete it this year, after that is Pine to Palm 100 out in OR and it will be my first 100 mile race. I am scared and excited but I know if I put in the time and be consistent in my training, I will be wearing that buckle next fall.

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