I always thought of my dad as my Ironman when I was growing up. He was a marathon runner and always gave it everything he had. When I was 18, he passed away from lung cancer. I admired how he never gave up and gave that everything he had too. Even though we never had a chance to run a race together, he inspired me to run my first marathon in 2016 with Team LUNGevity. After finishing that race, I decided to set my sights on an even bigger challenge: completing an Ironman in memory of my dad.
For seven months, I did two workouts a day during the week and long workouts on the weekends. I’d wake up early and work out for an hour before work. Then, in the evening, I’d spend another hour or more training. On the weekends, I’d do a long bike ride on Saturday and a long run on Sunday. My longest bike ride was 8.5 hours.
While I was training for the Lake Placid Ironman, it was important to me to keep raising lung cancer awareness and fundraising for LUNGevity. I shared my dad’s story and described how his battle motivated me to pursue this goal. Some people commented they had no idea that lung cancer was the number one cause of cancer deaths. Others said their mom, dad, aunt, or uncle has lung cancer. It’s so prevalent, but you don’t always realize how many people in your life are affected by lung cancer.
I kept people updated with my progress on social media. It meant so much to me that they felt invested in my training and wanted to make sure I was still doing well. They were part of the journey. Having that community behind me helped me get through the long bike rides and long runs.
The biggest challenge on race day was staying motivated and not giving up. Mentally, my dad helped a lot with that. Whenever things get hard, you think of people who are going through much worse. I think about what my dad went through. The Ironman is just one day and you know you’re going to be fine in a couple of days. This was nothing compared to that. I can remember specific days when my dad wasn’t feeling well. Even Christmas day one year, he wasn’t able to open gifts with us. But he made an effort to make sure he was present, even if he had to lie down. He wanted to make sure things were normal.
Six weeks before the Ironman, our daughter was born, and it completely changed our lives. I want to make sure she has great role models. I’ve always said that my dad was my “Ironman” growing up. My dad stopped running before I became a runner and I never got to do a race with him, but I remember going to watch the Boston Marathon with my dad and my brother. We would go up on Patriot’s Day and watch all of the finishers run down Boylston Street. Those memories are very special to me, so I’ve decided to try to qualify for Boston in the next two years. I hope to do a race with my daughter someday. It would be fun to train together and to show her that anything is possible.
You too can run with Team LUNGevity. Sign-up for the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC by September 5th or pick your own race to run.
Kyle McCarthy and his wife Jessica live New Brunswick, NJ with their newborn daughter Addison.