BUCKHANNON – Buckhannon resident Rob Kimble wasn’t a jogger for most of his life, but in the last two years, he’s made great strides as a bona fide long-distance runner.
In fact, he now combines his newfound love of running with travel and has dashed around the East Coast, completing half-marathons in Pittsburgh, Gettysburg and the Outer Banks – and most recently a full 26.2-mile marathon in September in Erie, Pa.
So, what influenced Rob not only to start running, but to complete such long distance runs and races?
“My good friend, Rick Johnson, was turning 60 back in 2016,” Kimble said. “We had always met on Sunday mornings to play racquetball, and on one particular Sunday in March he looked at me and told me for his birthday that year he wanted to run a half-marathon.”
Kimble said he told his friend he thought that was a great idea. When Johnson said he would like Rob to accompany him to the half-marathon, Kimble said he would be supportive – but he didn’t understand exactly what Rick had in mind.
“I told him I would love to travel with him and help cheer him on,” Kimble recalled, “but he told me he wanted me not only to go with him, but to also run with him in the half-marathon. I asked him again what he wanted me to do, and he said he wanted me to run a half-marathon with him.”
Kimble asked just how far a half-marathon was, and Rick told him it was 13.1 miles.
“I looked at Rick and told him, ‘I’m not a runner!’” Kimble said.
Nevertheless, the duo set out to tackle this lofty goal.
Kimble said they gave up their Sunday racquetball games and met the next week to set out on foot instead.
“The next Sunday we went to the Riverwalk – something I know quite well now. We did three miles – I can’t tell you exactly how long it took, but it took forever,” he said, laughing.
Kimble said the next day he realized he had survived his first jog and thought, “This may not be too bad!”
The following Sunday, they went back and ran four miles – in a hail storm.
“I told Rick I really regretted my decision,” Kimble said, jokingly. “We kept adding more miles, and I actually completed 13 miles around town once before we traveled to our first half-marathon in the Outer Banks.”
“I got through my first half-marathon, survived it, and decided this running thing isn’t too bad,” he added.
Kimble said he will be turning 40 soon and, taking a page out of Johnson’s playbook, became inspired by his friend and running mate.
“Since he made 13.1 miles his goal for turning age 60, I decided I wanted to run a full marathon – 26.2 miles – for my turning 40 goal,” Kimble said. “I was able to complete that goal earlier this month (September).”
The first full marathon Kimble completed in was in Erie, Pa. in early September.
“It was my first, and unless convinced otherwise, it will probably be my last,” he said, laughing. “I don’t see any ultra-marathons in my future, but you don’t ever want to say never. You never know when I might say, ‘Let’s try this.’ You never know what the next goal might be.
“When I finished my first marathon, I thought I never wanted to run another marathon again. But if one of my friends asked me to run a marathon with them, I would gladly do it again.”
Kimble said running long distances brought along with it lifestyle changes – including better eating.
“I also brought yoga into my life,” he said.
For the future, Kimble said he thinks he wants to stick with half-marathons and use the races as an excuse to travel to different areas.
He added that running has taught him some great lessons.
“When you are running, you take one step at a time. Running teaches you to bear down and go for your goals,” Kimble said. “You have to clear your mind and just focus. When I first started running, I could not fathom how I could run three miles. Then it was, ‘How am I going to run 13.1 miles? And how am I going to get to 21 miles?”
“And the day of the marathon I asked myself how I was going to run 26.2 miles,” he remembered. “My main goal was just to finish, one step at a time. Remember, you can do anything you put your mind to.”
Some days, Kimble just doesn’t want to run – but after pushing through the mental barrier, he’s always glad he made the trek.
“I tell myself I am glad I did it,” he said. “Running gives me time to clear my thoughts, relax a little bit and gives me time to have a conversation with the person I am running with. I usually run three or four days a week.”
Kimble said he loves to run in the Buckhannon area and has only had one questionable experience.
“Early one Sunday I was running out to the Way of Holiness Church, and as I was returning I was stalked by a bird,” he recalled. “I came home and turned to my friend, Google, to find out why a bird would be trying to attack me. I found out when a bird has eggs, it is on the defensive. Google’s advice was to carry something reflective, so I used my water bottle reflecting the sun to discourage the bird in the future – and it worked!
“Who would think it would be a bird that would bother me during my run? In about three or four weeks, the eggs must have hatched because the bird started leaving me alone.”
A lifelong resident of Buckhannon, Kimble graduated from Buckhannon-Upshur High School and studied at Fairmont State College. His field of expertise is accounting and he currently works at West Virginia Wesleyan College.
“Running in Buckhannon been great!” he said. “The community has supported me with beeps on their horns, thumbs up and the occasional ‘Run, Forest, Run!’ which makes me laugh. I appreciate everyone’s support!”