By FRED KRONER
Mark Kesler’s high school track career didn’t prepare him for the running he would do as an adult.
“I was a sprinter,” Kesler said. “I’d never run more than a 400-meter (race).”
About two decades ago, he used a milestone birthday to do a self-evaluation.
“At 40, I was out of shape, the worst I’d ever been,” Kesler said. “I was eating McDonald’s between (children’s) sporting events.”
Kesler was a board member for MAYC, which in 1997 was organizing its first Mahomet Half-Marathon fund-raiser.
Besides the main 13-1.-mile event, a 5-kilometer was also part of the inaugural day’s activities.
“I thought, ‘This gives me incentive to try and get back in shape,’ “ Kesler said.
As the 22nd half-marathon event approaches on Aug. 4 (7 a.m. start at the high school), Kesler is one of the few individuals to have participated every year.
“It’s amazing how big it has gotten,” Kesler said.
When he steps to the starting line the first Saturday of next month, Kesler will see a familiar face.
Mahomet’s Alan Singleton will also be running in the event for the 22nd time.
“It’s a great community event, for a great cause and an excuse to stay in shape,” Singleton said. “MAYC makes a significant impact on the youth of the community.
“There’s the running aspect and seeing people you know, and there’s the giving back aspect,” Singleton added. “It’s nice to support an event that supports a good cause in the community.”
Unlike Kesler, Singleton brought a different running background to the annual MAYC race.
“I’ve always been a runner since 8,” Singleton said. “I ran distance in middle school, high school (Robinson) and college (Millikin).
“I was drawn to this as a person interested in supporting the club. It’s a great opportunity to have a benchmark and get off the couch or get up early (to workout).”
For Kesler, starting into training created doubts about his capabilities. He marked off an approximately 3-mile course from his home, and took off.
“I was about a half-mile away from my house (on the return trip) and thought, ‘I can’t make it back home,’ “ Kesler said. “I dragged myself back.”
He was motivated to continue.
“I ran farther each day,” he said.
By Race Day in 1997, however, Kesler still wasn’t totally confident.
“Adam (son) was 11 and I had him ride his bike next to me in case he needed to get the medics,” Mark Kesler said.
Singleton, who has lived in Mahomet for 25 years, also has a bicycle story to launch his running career.
“I was with a friend, we had 3 miles to go to get home and we had one bike for two people,” Singleton said. “I said, ‘You take the bike, and I’ll run.’ It was an epiphany.”
He hasn’t slowed down even after his competitive collegiate career ended.
“I’ve been a recreational runner,” Singleton said.
The virtues of running are similar for both Singleton and Kesler.
“It’s a great stress-reliever,” Singleton said.
“I did my best thinking while running,” Kesler said. “It gives you freedom. No phones.
“You’re by yourself, thinking about things and trying to figure out life. You enjoy nature and get a little exercise.”
Singleton and Kesler typically enter the 5K race.
“I try to have a bookend system,” Singleton said. “My two race dates are the Mahomet run in August and the Illinois Marathon (in Champaign) in April,” he said.
With a law practice and three children — two of whom will be students at the University of Illinois this fall — time is a consideration for Singleton, and running fits his needs.
“You can get a 30-minute run in first thing in the morning and it’s an efficient way to exercise,” Singleton said. “You get a good workout in a short amount of time whereas if you drive to a gym, you have to drive back and shower.”
After successfully making it through his first 5K, Kesler developed a passion for it.
“I got the fever of running,” he said, “and I loved it. I got why people do this.
“I came home from work and looked forward to running 3 or 4 miles.”
In recent years, however, Kesler has slowed his pace.
“The knees and hips don’t work as well,” he said. “I haven’t run as much lately.
“The competitive juices are not there anymore. The competition is with myself, to put the shoes on and go running.”
He’s not ready for a sedentary lifestyle.
‘I’ve been biking much more than running,” Kesler said. “It’s not as hard on the feet and you can go further.”