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Geisinger becomes the first member of Risant Health

By Beth Kaszuba

Running a marathon might seem like an impossible dream, a goal only for elite athletes willing to train for years.

A you woman prepares for a training run by stretching.

But Kenneth Tomczyk, DO, says crossing the finish line is within reach of the average person. And you’ll have fun along the way.

Dr. Tomczyk, who practices at Geisinger 65 Forward in Scranton, never considered himself a runner. He’d trained for one 5K before the pandemic shut down group activities. Then he didn’t run again until June 2021 — at age 44, with a history of knee and back injuries.

And yet, he soon set the goal of running the New York City Marathon that same November.

A key step? Joining a running group affiliated with Ryan’s Run, a fundraising campaign started by NEPA media personality Ryan Leckey. There, Dr. Tomczyk found supporters and a friend in his 60s who helped him set up a training program.

“I didn’t understand how to ramp up,” Dr. Tomczyk says. “But running became therapeutic. I’d have 30 minutes alone wearing my headset. I enjoyed that.”

Still, on his first 10-mile run, “I was dehydrated — and I almost got hit by a train,” Dr. Tomczyk recalls, laughing.

Nevertheless, he persevered, building endurance and friendships that helped carry him all the way to and through the marathon.

“The camaraderie is so uplifting,” he says, explaining that even strangers along the route were supportive, especially during the grueling last few miles. “When I reached Brooklyn, the crowds were cheering and high-fiving you. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.”

Still think you couldn’t run more than 20 miles? Dr. Tomczyk shares a secret.

“A lot of people alternate walking and running throughout the whole marathon,” he says. “And by the last six miles, most people are walking.”

Even if you don’t plan to run a marathon, running benefits your body, he adds. “It’s good for your physical and mental health. Some of the benefits include weight loss, boosted confidence, stress relief and disease prevention. It’s just a great exercise.”

Dr. Tomczyk’s training tips

To complete a 5K (3.1 miles):

  • Invest in good running shoes and replace them every 300 to 500 miles.
  • Stretch and do strength training to protect your joints.
  • Use an app like Couch to 5K to keep you on track.

Add these tips for marathon training (26.2 miles):

  • Join a running group and consider posting to social media. Reporting to followers keeps you motivated.
  • Focus on technique. Using a strategy like chi running, which is based on principles of tai chi, can help protect your joints over long distances.
  • Consider a training program that includes strategic walking intervals. The breaks are good for your body and make covering 26.2 miles less daunting.
Kenneth Tomczyk, DO at the New York City Marathon.

Anybody can do this. Our bodies are meant to move.”

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