After featuring Brent & Kyle Pease on The RUNATL Podcast, our Director of Marketing, Dave “D2” Martinez signed up to push-assist a Kyle Pease Foundation athlete at this year’s Big Peach Sizzler 10K. He shares his experience and why you should consider doing the same.
I was aware of the Kyle Pease Foundation for several years and had seen them at several races. It wasn’t until we had them on The RUNATL Podcast (Ep. 22 & Ep. 36) that I got to know them. Their story of brotherly love is heart-warming and their challenges at the New York City Marathon will have you believe that anything is possible with the right attitude and motivation. They recently released the book “Beyond The Finish” which is a memoir of their journey that culminates with their long-time goal, to cross the finish line at the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii.
It was during Episode 22 that I decided I wanted to volunteer as a push-assist at a future race. I actually think I said I would on the podcast, so there’s a record of that. It also gave me some accountability even if I was only accountable to myself. Running this year has been more about fun than to be competitive. I’ve spent a good amount of time this year volunteering and giving back to the sport and the running community. And I have to admit, it’s felt pretty good doing so but nowhere near how good I felt during and after this race.
I signed up to volunteer a couple of months ago but I didn’t find out who I was going to push until 6 days before the race. It turned out that I would be paired up with Kyle Pease himself. This made me a bit nervous. First of all, I’d be pushing one of the founders of the Kyle Pease Foundation. He’s done so many of these races, not to mention, he’s done these with his brother, Brent. Brent is fast. Like really, really fast and that’s while pushing Kyle. I had some big (and fast) shoes to fill.
I ran to the race start, since I live halfway between the start and finish, and arrived around 6 am. When the Kyle Pease Foundation truck showed up with all the wheelchairs we offloaded them and started getting them set up. Kyle came up and I told him we were paired up and that I was a little nervous. He was really good at giving me tips and pointers beforehand. Brent also came by and offered some advice on how to use the brake. We headed to the start line at 7:10 am. Our start time was 7:25 am with the rest of the race starting at 7:30 am.
As we lined up Kyle gave me directions on where to line up and how to take the corners. I was really concerned about the corners. There are 2 90º turns at the start of the race and 3 90º turns heading into the finish. There’s no steering on these chairs. Basically, you have to push down on the chair to pick the front wheel up and then use your hands and arms to make the turn. As Kyle said, the key was to take the turns wide, so that’s what I did. I was surprised how light the chairs were and despite not having any steering, the chair was easier to maneuver than I expected.
The gun(horn?) goes off and all the Kyle Pease Foundation teams take off. I had one realistic goal and that was not to stop and walk. I wasn’t worried about time or pace. I made the first 2 turns and we were on Peachtree Rd. There’s immediately a small hill and I feel good. Kyle is encouraging me by yelling at me encouraging words. There’s one nice downhill section as we leave Chamblee and enter Brookhaven. I was concerned that we might go too fast and that I’d have to rely on the brake to slow down and stay in control. Luckily, I didn’t have a need to use the brake. I glanced at my GPS watch to see our pace. I saw 6:30 min/mile but since I couldn’t see it clearly at that angle and I was afraid to let go of the chair, it could’ve read 8:30 min/mile. A nice uphill followed going past Ashford Dunwoody toward Town Brookhaven. There are hillier areas in Atlanta and this course has rolling hills and nothing that I would call really difficult.
From this point the course leveled out a bit with only a small amount of elevation change. We got past the half way point heading toward Buckhead. At the start I asked Kyle if he needed water to let me know and I’d stop. I was kind of hoping he needed some water because my mouth was dry but I had at least 10 oz. of water before the start so I knew I would be fine. I think it was nerves. The rest of the race had started and had started catching up to us and while that may seem discouraging, the comments and cheering we got was anything but that. It’s amazing how a stranger’s encouragement and cheering can motivate you, remove pain, and have you feeling strong. Even more when it’s Kyle giving you that encouragement.
We were heading toward the finish and had 3 turns to make before crossing the finish line. I kept the turns wide as Kyle suggested and they went smoothly. Better than I did at the beginning. I was pleased that I felt so good and that I never had to stop to walk. Yes, I slowed down on the hills, but I felt strong throughout the run. The finish is downhill so it was a fast finish and I had to use the brake to make sure we didn’t hit the timing mat at full speed.
We were greeted by volunteers that placed medals around our neck and gave us ice cold towels and water to cool down. We toured the finish area and saw several friends before heading back to the Kyle Pease Foundation truck with the other athletes.
This has been the best race experience I’ve ever had and it’s not because I ran a fast time or got a PR. We’ve all heard of “Runner’s High” and that’s what I felt but it was more than that. A “Runner’s High” happens and then it’s gone. This feeling isn’t gone. I get excited talking about it. I get a big smile when I do talk about it. I’ll have this memory tucked away and all I’ll have to do is remember it the next time I need a boost of energy or motivation. It’s a great feeling and I wish I could bottle it and share with everyone. I would highly recommend to everyone to sign up to push-assist an athlete. It’s incredible for these individuals to take part in a race and the feeling you’ll get from helping them experience it will stay with you forever.
Thank you Kyle for the motivation, encouragement, and experience. Brent, thank you for trusting me with your brother. I am forever grateful and I can’t wait to do it again.
Thanks to Tim Nettleton with True Speed Photo for this great image. A great reason to sign up for Big Peach Sizzler 10/5K is the free race photos.