Kenny Capps to go across the state for cancer

Fred McCormick
Black Mountain News

It would have been difficult to blame Kenny Capps for quitting after being diagnosed in 2015 with stage two multiple myeloma. The blood cancer that develops in the bone marrow has no cure. The five-year survival rate for patients is about 49 percent, according to the American Cancer Society.

In Capps, however, is the spirit of a lifelong ultramarathon runner and endurance athlete who resists the urge to give up. So on April 1, when the sun rises over the Outer Banks, Capps will do what he’s always done - continue to move forward.

Black Mountain native Kenny Capps finishes the final stretch of the Black Mountain Marathon in February. Capps will begin the Throwing Bones Run, which will raise money and awareness for Multiple Myeloma, on April 1 on the Outer Banks.

Over the next 54 days, Capps, who is currently undergoing treatment for multiple myeloma, plans to run all 1,175 miles of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, from the N.C. coast to Clingman’s Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near the Tennessee state line.

Capps will need to average 22 miles per day for nearly two months. He hopes to raise $117,500 - $100 per mile - for his pending nonprofit organization, Throwing Bones for a Cure, Inc., which he established in January 2017.

“We’re working toward three things with our organization,” he said a couple of weeks before beginning the run. “We’re working on raising money for research, as well as encouraging and assisting myeloma patients to get active and stay active. We’re also working on establishing a support fund to help with non-medical financial needs-related treatment. Things that aren’t covered by insurance.”

Multiple myeloma has become a major part of Capps’ life since his diagnosis three years ago. He underwent a bone marrow transplant in August 2015, which proved to be “mostly successful,” he said. But the cancer did not go into remission. Since then, he has continued treatment, which forced him to leave the business (Kudzu Brands) that he founded in 2010 with wife Murphy Funkhouser Capps, who now runs the business. 

What Capps refused to do, though, was stop running. He had been involved in ultramarathons and biking since his early teens.

His commitment to ultramarathon running conflicted with his refusal to back down from the challenges of cancer. That's how Throwing Bones was born. Capps devised a way to use his passion for running to fight the disease. He began planning the Mountain To Sea trail run as a means to raise awareness of and money to fight the disease.

Throwing Bones for a Cure gives people willing to support Capps and his cause an opportunity to donate to the organization. Runners and non-runners alike can run with Capps or simply donate to his cause on his website,

Kenny Capps, who was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma in 2015, plans to run the length of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail beginning on April 1 to raise money for the blood cancer.

To help him raise awareness, Capps reached out to people he knew and admired in the ultramarathon community, which he calls “one of the most positive and supportive” groups out there.

He found willing allies like Mirna Valerio, an ultramarathon runner whose blog - Fat Girl Running - has gained notoriety in recent years. The blog chronicles the running life of the Spanish teacher and cross country coach who lives in Rabun Gap, Georgia. It has been written about in The Wall Street Journal, Runners’ World, The Huffington Post and Buzzfeed and elsewhere.

Valerio was introduced to Capps through a mutual friend.

“(Capps) contacted me and told me about what he was doing to raise money for this specific type of cancer,” she said. “He said he wanted to demonstrate that even though you may be ill or have an obstacle to overcome, you can do big things.”

Valerio committed to supporting Capps by raising awareness for his cause and joining him for a leg of his run.

“Kenny is such a genuine guy, and so joyful and appreciative of life and his family and that he’s able to run,” she said. “That kind of attitude is right up my alley. It’s incumbent upon all of us, no matter what we’re going through, to show enthusiasm for life and bring joy to other people.”

Like Capps, David McConkey is certainly no stranger to ultramarathon running, having participated in races like the Canadian Death Race and the Midnight Sun Marathon. Another commonality he shares with Capps is his multiple myeloma diagnosis, which he received in 2010.

He will be joining Capps on his run on April 6-8.

“Looking forward to being on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail with Kenny in support of the mission and objectives of Throwing Bones through running, an activity I am passionate about,” McConkey said in an email.

Several others from the ultramarathon community have committed to joining Capps as well, Capps said. Sandy Villines, who became the fastest woman to cross the continental United States on foot last year (accomplishing the feat in just over 54 days), will lend her support to Throwing Bones too.

“She said she was going to run with me for a week,” Capps said. “That’s awesome, especially considering how much she has going on.”

Capps expects Charlie Engle, widely regarded as one of the world’s most accomplished ultramarathon runners, to join him at some point during his run also. The crew accompanying Capps, Chuck Dale and Dean Hart, is “among the best in the business,” he said.

As daunting of a task as traversing the Mountains-to-Sea Trail may seem, Capps welcomes the chance. He has been training for the run since 2016, carefully noting how his body responds to the treatment he’s receiving.

“I don’t anticipate that the medication will impact me too much,” he said. “I’ve been on it for awhile, so I’m pretty tuned in to how it affects me.”

He suffered setbacks in his training, like pneumonia and an ankle injury in 2017. But he believes his body is ready for the long run.

“I’m stoked about this,” he said about his upcoming run. “Running has always been a way of coping for me, but with this run - and through the Throwing Bones organization - I’m hoping to use running as a tool to help other people dealing with myeloma.”