Winfield art teacher RyAnn Myers, 39, finds solace in running long distances

Son, Brant, and daughter, Kayli, are all smiles as they run the last half mile with their mother, RyAnn Myers, during the May 2017 PrairieFire in Wichita. Kayli had already completed the 5K race and won in her age group. Brant and Kayli support their mother by running alongside her during different marathon events.

It’s easy to understand why so many people feel powerless in a world where they struggle to achieve their dreams, goals and happiness. Too often they give up without realizing their strengths and potentials. 

Though 39-year-old RyAnn Myers has had her share of sadness and troubles, in her world the impossible does not exist.

Years ago, Myers couldn’t even conceive that she would become a marathon runner.

“I was a former college softball player who had never loved running,” she said. “It was my least favorite part of practice. I was the most unhealthy that I had ever been. I weighed in the obese category and was not making very healthy choices. So I began training in 2015.”

It also was at this time that her brother, Cary Mock, developed Myelofibrosis, an extremely rare form of leukemia, and needed a bone morrow transplant. Myers, her sister, Melissa Beatty, additional family members and medical specialists rallied around Mock, offering him good care, faith and courage.

It was Beatty who ended up being an exact match for their brother. She became his donor.

Life seemed full of promise and possibilities until the doctors informed Mock that the transplant had not worked. They told him to go home to be with his family to plan for end of life care.

Prior to his illness, running had been an important part of Mock’s life. In high school he had been an accomplished cross country and track runner, going to state many times. 

“After being sent home to plan for end of life care, he saw a race in Kansas City called ‘Rock the Parkway.’ It had a 5K that was to be run in April, 2016,” Myers said. “This gave him motivation to get out of bed and keep moving. I told him if he would do that (the 5K), then I would run the half-marathon. I was able to complete ‘Rock the Parkway’ half-marathon, and my brother walked the 5K.”

Though he is in remission from Myelofibrosis, Mock now battles another disease: graft vs. Host (GVHD). This is an immune condition that occurs after transplant procedures when the immune cells from the donor (known as the graft or graft cells) attack the recipient patient host’s tissues.

As of Oct. 31, Myers said that the disease he strives to fight remains very serious.

“He is unable to support his own weight and is in a wheelchair,” she said. “He has lost more than a third of his body weight. He is still alive and fighting, however, four years after he was sent home to die. The doctors aren’t sure what to do to help him as no one in his condition has lived this long.”

Myers, who teaches art at both Whittier and Lowell Elementary schools in Winfield, considers it an honor to be with her pupils. She feels proud of their completed artwork. Chances are when she is not teaching kindergarten through fifth grade, she finds running too tempting to resist.

“I have completed 19 half-marathons, one marathon and numerous 5K’s,” she said. 

Myers completed her first, full marathon on Oct. 13.

“I ran the Chicago marathon and raised money for Ronald McDonald House Charities. I was on a team from Kansas City with my sister, Melissa, who is also an avid runner. My finish time was 4:47:14,” she said.

It turned out to be Beatty who really persuaded and encouraged Myers to experience all of the excitement of this particular marathon.

“It was the most thrilling, invigorating and motivating race,” she said. “The experience of running and raising money for Ronald McDonald House Charities, and making a difference in the lives of children and their families turned out to be one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life.”

Some of the other marathons Myers has participated in include:

• 2016: Rock the Parkway, half-marathon, Kansas City, Kan.; spring and fall PrairieFire, half-marathon, Wichita.

• 2017: Rock the Parkway, PrairieFire and Rock and Roll half-marathon in Las Vegas, Nevada.

• 2018: Rock the Parkway, PrairieFire, Air Capitol half marathon in Wichita, and Rock and Roll half marathon in San Antonio, Texas.

• 2019: Chilsolm Trail half-marathon in Wichita, PrairieFire, Hospital Hill, Kansas City, Mo., Go Girl, Kansas City, Mo., and the Omaha, Neb., marathon.

Myers is happy to report that she will continue to run in upcoming marathons.

Nothing it seems can curb her enthusiasm and willingness to run.

“This year I have trained a lot harder, and since May, I have run for 165 consecutive days at least one mile every day. Most days I run more than one mile,” she said. “In 2016, I ran 443 miles total. In 2017, I ran 358 total miles. In 2018, it was 600 miles, and currently in 2019, I have run 917 miles.”

Setting small, achievable goals has kept Myers going. She started out “nice and slow,” as she put it. She developed a strict routine of running for 30 seconds, then walking for two minutes. She would repeat this routine for 15 minutes.

“The run/walk method was what got me through the first three years of races. It wasn’t until this spring that I was able to finally run an entire half-marathon without walking at all,” she said.

Myers also finds encouragement and support from Facebook friends and a Cowley County-based running group known as #storyofarunner. There is always someone in this Facebook group who is willing to run at least a few miles of a long run with Myers and others, which truly crushes the monotony of a long run.

It looks as if running does run in the family. Her daughter, Kayli, a freshman at Winfield High School, is active in sports and cross country. It wasn’t long before Kayli joined her mother along this running journey.

“She is MUCH faster than I am,” Myers said, “so I don’t like her to hold back and stay with me. She has run several of the races that I have, as well. She has run one of the half-marathons and did it for almost an hour faster than I did.”

Myers has earned respect from friend, admirer and teacher/coach with Winfield Middle School, Michaela Gray. Gray used to watch Myers run in the school hallways when Myers waited for her daughter to finish practice. Myers didn’t know why for sure that Gray wanted to begin running with her, but at the end of a school year Gray asked to run together.

It seems that running can be contagious.

Though Myers can basically eat what she wants, she did say that her diet consists of a fasting plan usually between the hours of 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. She can eat lunch and supper with a small snack following school as well. Then she can fast from 7 p.m. to 11 a.m. the next day.

“So I fast for 16 hours a day. I also stopped drinking soda over a year ago,” she added. “Since starting this journey in late 2015, I have lost 80 pounds.”

Myers stated that running is about 9 5 percent mental. The body can do anything, she said, as long as anyone puts their mind to it.

For Myers, this running journey has been incredible. She wouldn’t necessarily call running “pleasurable,” but it is her special time.

“I enjoy my time running as I listen to show tunes and sing as I run. It is my time,” she said. “I really like doing it first thing in the morning before school. I feel more energized throughout the day if I begin my day with a run.”

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