October 20, 2014

Life After Football

On October 19, 2014, Kyle Koch, crossed a different line than the type he is used to. The 6'2" former professional offensive lineman in the Canadian Football League (CFL) completed his first half marathon (21.1 kilometres) at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in Toronto, Ontario in a time of 1:49:25. An incredible accomplishment for any runner...never mind an OFFENSIVE LINEMAN.

Kyle's athletic journey includes playing Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) football for the McMaster Marauders. He was originally signed by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers as an undrafted free agent in 2007. From 2009-2012, Kyle played with the Edmonton Eskimos. On September 10, 2013, he signed with the Toronto Argonauts. On May 16, 2014 he officially retired and set out on a new journey to lose 50 pounds and run both a 10K and half marathon.
That's where I come in. Originally friends from our hometown of Kenora, Ontario, I reconnected with Kyle when his football career brought him to Toronto. In early 2014, we met to discuss his goals of making a healthy and smooth adjustment from his lifestyle as a professional athlete to runner and full-time MBA student at University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. I know, what a slacker.
I could use all sorts of sport analogies and cliches to describe Kyle's accomplishments this year, I won't. Kyle's story isn't meant to come across as glossy and fairytale like - it is for everyone leading a busy and stressful lifestyle who wants to make a lifestyle change and lose weight but who makes excuses about their lack of time.
You have to put a lot of work into any goal. You have to make sacrifices and be openminded enough to put a lot of trust in others who will help you get to where you want to go. You need to be self-motivated. Tell others what your goal is so that they can help you. Invite people to join you. Know that you might fail but you'd rather die trying.
I took my role as "running coach" very seriously. I built him a manageable yet challenging training plan, he followed it down to the single push-up and kilometre repeat. He lost weight gradually through cutting foods out of his diet that he once indulged in as a football player. This is most likely the hardest thing he had to do. He also began running a little more mileage each month. Week over week over week, he made progress.
No great journey should be made alone. In Kyle's case, he was joined by his talented and driven girlfriend, Rebecca Babcock - who spent her summer working towards her own bucket list goal of completing a half marathon. I believe that all couples or friends should tackle goals like this together if they can - having a support system is key to success. On race day, Rebecca ran an amazing sub 2 hour half marathon.

Kyle and Rebecca post-race at the 2014 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

Their smiles sum up what they achieved on the roads of Toronto during their race but as Muhammad Ali once said "the fight is won or lost far away from witnesses - behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights"...the work these two put in leading up to the race is what counts the most. They set a goal, found a way to get there together. I can hardly wait to see what happens next.