COLUMN: In less than 24 hours, an Oxford man and Ole Miss graduate will literally begin running across the state of Florida.
Ryan McCready, an avid long-distance runner and triathlete, is part of a four-man team that is set to run from Fort Myers, Fla., located on the southwest coast, all the way across the state, north of Lake Okeechobee to Jensen Beach, located on the east coast. The distance that the team will cover over the next few days is 180 miles, and all of McCready’s effort go towards his main goal for running, finding a cure for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).
It was just two years ago that McCready really got into running long distances. The former Navy veteran said he was always in shape until he allowed his weight to increase and health level to drop during his time here at Ole Miss.
McCready reached a point where he decided that he wanted to get back into shape and his increased activity ultimately led him to running 5K races and competing in triathlons. His interest in endurance sports has also parlayed into McCready coaching others who want to run in races or even compete in triathlons as well.
The training regiment that McCready undertakes on a daily basis has become more like a part-time job, but one he enjoys because of what he’s trying to accomplish.
“It’s time consuming. It’s definitely a lifestyle, not a hobby,” McCready said as he waited on to board his plane to Ft. Myers. “I train two to four hours everyday, six days a week. That doesn’t include transit to train or the amount of time it takes to refuel your body.”
On a mission
While McCready hopes to make a living competing and training others in the endurance sports arena, his ultimate goal this year and beyond is to raise money and awareness for ALS. Every race McCready participates in, he is constantly thinking about Jon Blais, “The Blazeman,” who died from the debilitating disease in 2007.
McCready said when Blais found out he was dying from ALS, he never blinked and instead of giving in, he worked even harder to compete in triathlons. Blaise’s desire ultimately allowed him to compete in the Ironman World Championship held annually in Kona, Hawaii.
McCready said Blaise rolled through the competition in a wheelchair and his inspiration lives in him each time he goes and competes.
“I don’t want this to be about me. I want people to understand I’m doing this for Jon Blais and his memory and to keep his foundation alive,” said McCready, who is called a Blaze Warrior because of his attachment with the cause. “I wake up at 3:30 in the morning twice a week to go swim in Tupelo and there have been days where I didn’t want get out of bed. But I remind myself that I’m not just racing for myself, I’m racing for someone else, someone who has donated money for the cause and that gives me the inspiration to keep going.”
McCready’s drive to gain a pro card on the triathlon circuit and raise money for ALS got a huge boost over the weekend when he was awarded the Overall Winner in the Natchez Trace Duathlon held just outside of Nashville, Tenn.
“I’ve won my age division in races before, but that was my first overall victory,” said McCready, who added it was not unusual for triathletes to really start to hit their peak until they reach their 30s. “I feel like I’m in a good position to have a good year and really do some big things as long as I can stay from injury.”
McCready’s quest will continue through the summer and fall as he takes part in several different types of races ranging from destinations such as Milwaukee to Texas to Panama City, Fla. In between those races, he will continue to train here locally in Oxford as well as organize and compete in the running races here in Lafayette County.
“Oxford is a weird nut to crack in regards to physical sports. There are a lot of 18 year-olds here in town that aren’t really into this type of lifestyle and more into having fun. I know I was one of them,” McCready said.
“The ones that I have coached and trained, I get a lot of pleasure out of seeing them achieve. I get so enthused for them because running a 5K or a 10K in a lot of cases is the largest sport achievement they have ever accomplished and that makes me happy.”
For more information about McCready or to donate to helping him find a cure for MLS, visit http://www.active.com/donate/teamblazeman/McCready (March 24, 2011, Page 6)