Show-Me State Games competitor finds lost love for running
COLUMBIA - Athletes competed in the Show-Me State Games Track and Field competition on Saturday, and for one athlete, it was the first time in 20 years.
Kenny Williams was a track star in high school. He even had a full-ride offer to run in college but made the decision to walk away from it all.
"After the end of my senior year, I guess I just had had enough," he said. "I don't exactly remember why. I just stopped running, and I never picked it up after that.”
Williams said he always had a love/hate relationship with the sport.
"It’s just really competitive," he said. "You want to be faster and faster, run harder and harder. But throwing up at the end of races, it just kind of wares on you.”
Fast-forward 16 years, Williams endured a knee injury and then surgery to get it fixed.
"I was in an arm wrestling match with my son, who I think maybe was four years old at the time," he said. "I was right here on the floor and for some reason when I rolled over, my knee cap dislocated or something. Apparently, there was a little piece of cartilage just floating around by my knee cap or under it, and it just kind of swelled up and exploded."
The surgery went well, but the recovery process was slow. What was supposed to be a few weeks of recovery, turned into a few months.
Williams was left frustrated, until an idea from his wife changed everything.
"She said, 'Why don’t you try doing a 5K or something, give you something to work towards.' And so I was like 'Yeah, that’s a good idea.' I used to run, so maybe that will help," he said.
Williams started out with one mile, then he slowly progressed to two and then three and all the way up to six miles. And in that time, Williams found his love for running again.
Four years post-knee surgery plus 16 more since high school, Williams was determined to race in a meet again. And the Show-Me State Games were the perfect opportunity.
“It’s kind of full circle I guess. I don't know if that’s cliche," he said. "But I used to be a runner and completely stopped and now back to it again. I feel like in ways I'm stronger even though my times may not be as fast. But I feel stronger because I'm motivated to do it myself."
Williams participated in both the 800 and 3000 meter events, and he was even able to bring home the gold.
“Sometimes life hands you a challenge, like a knee surgery or whatever it is, and you have a choice to work through it," he said. "And often times those challenges can help you improve and get better. If we take the chance to do something about it and get back up and get going, it can actually be a motivating factor.”