Introducing John Kohler, a husband, father, brother, partner, friend, and to some a hero! John is also an avid believer in gradient athletic compression for performance and recovery, and recently began wearing our TheraSport Athletic Performance and Recovery Socks and Sleeves. Last November, he set out on a trip that most of us will only dream of – a LONG foot-run across the entire STATE OF KANSAS. Yes, think Forest Gump style. He averaged 40+ miles a day and accomplished it in 11 days. Let me clarify, he ran 435 miles in 11 days with his two feet! We were so intrigued by his journey that we wanted to know what his secret was.
Q: What inspired you to do the “run across Kansas” challenge?
A: The thought to run Kansas came to me a few years back. I did some research and noticed that no one had run across the state East/West or West/East. At that point I was enticed to make the first attempt. As I began to look at it more seriously the reasons to do it only grew from there. What turned out to be the biggest reason was I wanted to do it for my kids. My hope is that one day down the line, if they’re having a tough go at it, they will draw some strength from this. And of course the charity aspect of raising funds and bringing awareness to SocialHeart.
From socialheart.org: SocialHeart is a non-profit organization that is 100% volunteer managed with the goal of creating a better community by supporting all local charities through unique, fun fundraising events, social media and marketing promotions and volunteer support.
Q: Did you ever feel like giving up or regretting this journey? What kept you going?
A: You definitely have your moments when you want to throw in the towel and think “WHAT AM I DOING?” On the fourth day, after about 10 miles I was sitting on the side of the road in the middle of Kansas and I just lost it. I was tired, the pain of the last three days had accumulated and set in, and I just felt spent physically and mentally. The three guys on my crew stood there and they just let me release all that frustration. After I composed myself I got up and looked down the road, to my left the road I came from, to my right, down the road I was headed. At that point there were only two options, to quit, or to just keep putting one foot in front of the other. I then thought of my wife and kids. They had already sacrificed so much to allow me to do this. If I quit, it felt like a waste of that sacrifice. I owed it to them to give it everything I had and at that point realized quitting was not an option. So I put my head down and told myself to just take the journey 5 miles at a time. Thirty-eight miles later the day was done and I was stronger for it.
Q: What did your sleep and diet look like during those 11 days?
A: My diet wasn’t exactly what I hoped it would be, but when you’re running 10-11 hours a day it boils down to convenience. My dad was the cook and when he could, he made chicken, breakfast burritos and grilled burgers. That being said I had to have A LOT of calories to sustain. Besides recovery, having sufficient food intake was integral in keeping me going. In the morning I would eat leftovers from the night before, peanut butter sandwiches with chips and protein bars were a main staple on the road during the day. At night there was pizza, burgers, and sub sandwiches, which are things I do not normally eat, but I worked with what I had and it got me to the end. Sleep was roughly 6-8 hours a day, as the journey progressed I had a hard time falling asleep and just sleeping in general. I would sleep 1-3 hours and then be awake and then sleep 1-3 hours, etc.
Q: What was your average run a day?
A: I averaged roughly 41 miles a day. Looking back I should’ve taken a more even keel approach instead of the 50 mile days followed by 30-40 mile days, but this was a giant experiment so you just kind of wing it!
Q: What did you do recover for the next day?
A: Going into it I knew recovery was key. As soon as I got back to camp I would sit on top of two 10-pound ice bags and then put two more on the top of my legs covering my thighs/knees. Afterwards I would put on either compression socks or compression pants and keep those on for a while before bed.
Q: Do you wear compression or have you worn any before?
A: I’ve been wearing compression since I began running and I’m a firm believer in its recovery abilities. During the days I would also periodically wear calf sleeves while I was on the road. I feel that they help with reducing the stress put on your legs as they hit the road.
Q: If you had a choice, would you do this challenge again?
A: When I started this journey I was just wanting to, well…just run. I never thought in a million years I would get so many messages and stories from folks inspired by what I was doing.
Q: What would you want us, the readers, to know about your goal?
A: My hope is that people will realize that it’s not about running, in fact it’s not even about sport or physical fitness. It’s about finding your passion, something you love. When you find that, do it with all your heart. Set some small goals and set a big goal, one that really scares you. Accomplish those little goals and it’ll give you the confidence to keep raising the bar. Then one day that scary goal will feel attainable and realistic. Then, just go for it, all in! Don’t be afraid to fail. You will be surprised what you’re made of and who YOU will inspire.
What an unforgettable experience! Thank you, John, for taking the time to share your journey with all of us, as well as supporting TheraSport!