Local runners introduction to competition will be the inaugural Cross Border Challenge
AMHERST - Kevin MacKenzie is aiming for at least two personal bests Saturday - to finish his first race all the while setting a new time for his run.
The Amherst native is participating in the Cross Border 10K Challenge and plans on using it as a stepping stone to other marathons.
"It wasn't too long ago that I was in bad shape," he said, noting he was off work.
"I had a lot of back trouble, with two degenerative discs and one herniated disc."
MacKenzie says doctors were almost to the point of operating on his back, but he opted to try out physiotherapy at the local LifeMark clinic.
"It was fantastic the things I was able to do but didn't think I could."
While working with the physiotherapist, MacKenize was able to walk somewhat upright on his own, and without the cane he had been depending on.
He started exercising at home with strength training he had been taught at the clinic, and started eating healthier. Before the back trouble, MacKenzie says, he was relatively inactive and weighed almost 245 pounds.
Now he tips the scales under the 200 mark, which was a goal of his.
"After a while, I was able to walk faster and stand taller, eventually starting into a run."
To prepare for this weekend's race, MacKenzie has been doing short and uphill runs to keep his legs strong and his momentum going.
Today, MacKenzie will drink lots of water to keep his body hydrated, and will try to keep his nerves in check.
Because of the work MacKenzie went through, he's excited to run his first race on the weekend, and is happier it's happening on his home turf.
"My friends and family all know where I've come from and what I was going through before, and they'll all be there rooting me on.
"I'm excited to see the atmosphere. Other runners that I've talked to have said it's an adrenaline rush to see all those people along the run, rooting you on. That would be awesome to see."
Having run 10 kilometres unofficially a few times, MacKenzie is aware of his times from those runs and hopes to make this one even faster.
"But I don't want to jinx myself," he said, not divulging what his goal in tomorrow's run is.
Following the Cross Border Challenge, MacKenzie will begin training for his first half marathon, which he hopes to participate in during the fall.
"I've done quite a turnaround, and running is addictive, even if going out in the rain," he said.
Also participating in the challenge is Margaret York, who has run a five-kilometre race a few years ago but hasn't been running for four or five years.
"I had quit smoking 11 years ago and ran every day for four years before joining the gym. Once I joined the gym, I laid off on the running, but then I also laid off on the gym. I gained weight, and decided to go back to the gym, which led back into running," said the 50-year-old who was the lucky winner of registration for the challenge.
"I got back into running because I find it invigorating. It's good for the mind, it's good for the body and it makes me feel good."
During the past week, York has done the run three times in preparation for Saturday's event, and has been able to improve her run by a few minutes.
"The humidity is playing a big part in things. It's like there's extra weight on my body," she said.
"I know endurance is very important, as is pacing yourself, so that's what I've been doing - running faster, then slower intervals. I'm 50 years old, so this is going to be quite an accomplishment for me."
The race begins at 8:30 a.m., Saturday, with the start line being the Eddy Road in New Brunswick. Runners will finish at the Cumberland YMCA.
Race organizer Paul Giroux said the event has 145 people registered but the committee is still looking for volunteers. Anyone wanting to help can drop in to the Cumberland YMCA today to sign up.
Giroux added they are also looking support from the community in terms of spectators.
"It means a lot to the racers to have people cheering them on," he said.
Pet owners along the route are reminded to have pets under their control as the runners pass by.