If you met Christina “Chris” Kenon today, you wouldn’t even guess she once never considered herself to be an athlete, let alone a triathlete. At her heaviest, as an adult, she weighed 240 pounds. When she began dating her future husband, a soldier, she was inspired by his example to get into shape. Her first attempt to adopt a healthier lifestyle was joining a gym, in 2003, and starting on the treadmill with “just moving my body.”
For the first 30 days, Chris didn’t lose a single pound. Finally, after a month of hitting the treadmill, she stepped on the scale and had dropped 12 pounds. She progressively challenged herself to the point where she was able to jog for 30 minutes straight, a big accomplishment for a non-runner. Over the course of just nine months, she lost 90 pounds—consistently running three to four miles a day, five to six days a week.
Chris was what she referred to as “just a treadmill rat" for years after hitting that milestone, and her real running journey didn’t begin until she moved to Fayetteville. Necessity drove her to hit the streets, still just a few miles at a time. After hiring a personal trainer and making friends with other runners, though, she started signing up for local runs. She’s experienced almost all of Fayetteville’s most popular annual races—to include Ryan’s Reindeer Run, Red Apple Run for Diabetes, Run for the Legend 5K, Run for the Pink 5K, Cinco de Mayo 5/10K, St. Patrick’s Day 5/10K, and Fort Bragg 10 Miler.
That close-knit group of runner friends kept challenging one another and graduated from 5K’s to 10K’s to eventually half marathons. As Chris shared with me, “I remember, the first time we ever ran eight miles, we were just like, ‘Oh my god! We just ran eight miles!’ It was such a big deal, because it was the longest we’d ever run before.”
Chris’ husband was along for many of those runner firsts, too. He was there for that first eight miles, half marathon, and full marathon—Fayetteville’s inaugural All American Marathon (AAM) in 2014. She went on to run the AAM or its coinciding race, the Mike to Mike Half Marathon, every year for the next three years.
When asked what makes the AAM so unique, Chris described how it has become Fayetteville’s signature race and only full marathon. She finds it to be challenging for many reasons, with the first six miles being hills just one reason. She also shared how the Blue Mile section of the AAM is particularly impactful, as the race is held in our military town, with the course leading runners straight up the flag-lined All American Freeway and onto Fort Bragg.
“I don’t care how many times I run the Blue Mile, it will always choke me up,” she shared.
The fact Chris has a running buddy who lost her spouse in war brought it even closer to home for her when she would see his picture on the Blue Mile. She’s also drawn inspiration from her friend and fellow runner, Suzy Goodwin. This Ft. Bragg military spouse broke the Guiness Book of World Records in 2016, when she ran Fayetteville’s NC Halloween Half Marathon in barely over 2 hours while pushing 14-month-old triplets in a stroller. Chris has observed, in general, that the running community is being taken over by women just like Suzy, who refuse to let life’s circumstances stand in the way of pursuing physical fitness.
Today, Chris can boast five marathons under her belt (“not a lot,” according to her), but can’t even count the number of half marathons she’s completed. Even more impressive, she's a triathlon and IRONMAN 70.3 finisher. When she signs up for a run now, she’s not just running it to run it; she’s competing against herself and her own “PR” (personal record).
As she elaborated, “I still have running goals, and I love running. If you took it away from me, no lie, I’d be depressed, because it’s just a part of me now and is a great outlet for me. It helps with stress and weight maintenance. You know how people go to church? I hit the streets, and that is my time. I’ve grown up in the running community here, and I’ve done a lot of firsts here.”
Not only does Chris continue to challenge herself, but she enjoys challenging others. She’s worked as a personal trainer for other runners, and she currently serves as the Vice President of the Fayetteville Running Club. Not surprisingly, that club, which has been integral in facilitating several of our community’s most popular races, is comprised of many active-duty service members, veterans, and military spouses like Chris.
As she begins training for her first full IRONMAN in October, you can follow Chris’ journey and benefit from some of the pro tips she shares on her Facebook page, @runbiotchrun. In the couple of years I’ve known Chris, I’ve certainly been inspired by watching her journey myself. She’s yet another example of the type of fierce military spouses who call Fayetteville home and push themselves just as hard, if not harder, than the service members they’re married to—maybe because victory means a little more here, in America’s Hometown.
Run season is upon us for 2020, and you’ll want to check out my list of "30+ Runs, Walks & Hikes to Tackle This Spring," including some of Chris’ favorite annual races. If you’re planning to join our community in running an upcoming race, I've shared some great suggestions on where to stay + play + eat + shop right off I-95 during your visit here. Come discover why America’s Hometown is a runner’s dream destination!
(All photos featured in this blog were used with permission by Chris Kenon.)