Running for his life, Kenny Capps is halfway home
Every day since Easter has been the same and different for Kenny Capps. He started running on the beaches of the Outer Banks, and nearly every morning since the Black Mountain runner has laced up his shoes and headed toward home.
While the running itself is largely mundane, his 1,175-mile journey along the Mountains-to-Sea Trail has been far from blase for Capps, who was diagnosed in 2015 with a form of blood cancer known as multiple myeloma. He calls his run the Throwing Bones Run.
Last week, a month after beginning his run to raise money and awareness for multiple myeloma, he was halfway home. “I’ve done back-to-back marathons this week, in terms of miles,” he said May 2 while running the Falls Lake Trail east of Durham. “I can’t say I’ve ever done that before.”
Nor had Capps, an avid endurance athlete who began running on the trails around Black Mountain as a teenager, traveled more than 550 miles on foot in 31 days before. The endeavor has not been without its challenges, he said.
“I wish I had started slower,” he said. “My first day was 35 miles, and that was a mistake in the sense that the miles are cumulative.”
Covering more than 52 miles in his first two days resulted in shin splints, micro-tears in the muscle and bone tissue of the lower leg.
“I’d never really had them,” Capps said. “But I got them, and I got them good. It’s hard to walk, let alone run when you have shin splints.”
The condition slowed Capps down early, forcing him to take three days off in his second week.
“I was behind, but when I started back I was doing a mixture of running and walking,” he said. “That was working fine, but I realized I was kind of beating my body up still.”
Capps began maintaining a slower pace to help his body recover.
“Once I realized that I didn’t have to pressure myself to keep a certain pace, it helped a lot,” he said. “Through the first part of the state, until a couple of days ago, I’ve been on the road the whole time. That asphalt is hard on your body.”
Also hard on Capps’ body is the chemotherapy treatment he receives every other week.
“Twice now I’ve taken the treatment orally since I started,” he said. “Right now I’m on my off week, but last week I was really in a funk. It was hard.”
Balancing treatment with the physical demands of running about 22 miles a day has proven to be tough.
"I haven't figured out mentally how to push through the treatment," he said. "I'm not looking forward to starting that back up again."
One aspect of the Throwing Bones Run that has comforted Capps, though, is the conversation it has started about multiple myeloma. "There's been great engagement from people following along on the website (throwingbonesrun.org) and social media," he said.
Keeping a daily journal of the trip allows Capps to share the experience of seeing the state on foot with supporters.
"I spent about half my time growing up between the coast and the mountains, so I was pretty familiar with both of those areas before I started," Capps said. "But I didn't know anything about the area between Wilmington and Raleigh."
In fact, seeing the inner coastal plain on foot has changed the native North Carolinian's understanding of his home state.
"I always thought of the mountains as being the rural part of the state," he said. "But out there is truly agricultural, and the farms are enormous. I passed pig farms, chicken farms, turkey farms and farms I hadn't thought of before."
The topography of the region is much different than what Capps has grown accustomed to running on.
"It's so flat," he said. "I told my father one day that I was happy because I hit around 60 feet of elevation one day."
When he travels west across the piedmont region, Capps will begin his ascent to the mountains of Western North Carolina. With less than a month to go, he's still well short of the $117,500 he hopes to raise.
"I'm grateful I've had the opportunity to do this," he said. "Donations are coming in, but they're not a lot. But I'm not on track to raise what we were hoping to raise."
Capps said he's still looking for corporate sponsors for the next half of his run across the state.
"We've still got a long way to go, and it would be great to raise money to help others battling myeloma," Capps said.
Want to get involved?
View Capps' running calendar, read his journal and donate to his cause at throwingbonesrun.org.