Only the Elite: Ryan Kienzle | Absolutely Incredible Athletes

For more than an hour Ryan Kienzle ran, and kept running. He was running the half-marathon in the Houston Marathon, trying to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Marathon trials.

Ryan Kienzle is chasing the goal of running the Olympic marathon

For more than an hour Ryan Kienzle ran, and kept running. He was running the half-marathon in the Houston Marathon, trying to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Marathon trials.

After all that time covering all the ground, 13.1 miles in 1:05:02, Kienzle missed the qualifying standard by two seconds. The 29-year-old Malone University and GlenOak High School graduate hasn’t given up.

While most marathon runners would consider about four hours a good time—the Boston Marathon qualifying standard is three hours, five minutes for men age 18-34—Kienzle is an elite runner still chasing a goal.

He tried to get there in 2012 at the Houston Marathon as well.

ON THE RUN (LEFT TO RIGHT) Jordan Horn, Daniel Mercado, Ryan Kienzle and Miguel Nuci running at the Olympic trials. photo provided

“I felt like I was in 2:16 shape,” Kienzle said. “I know it’s possible for me. I hit a mental block with marathons, which is why I’m trying the half-marathon route. But a lot of the guys I train with tell me I’m going to have to go back to marathons sooner or later and I can’t keep getting away with these half-marathons.”

Getting to the Olympic Trials can be done either through marathons or half-marathons. The shorter marathon means a more difficult standard time to meet. But it also means a shorter recovery time and allows Kienzle to train more.

To be an elite marathon runner, though, takes commitment. Kienzle runs more in a week than some people drive. At this point in his training, he is running between 85 and 100 miles a week.
And he’s doing that with a full-time teaching job at North Canton Middle School.

“I have about four workouts a week I do,” Kienzle said. “I’ll do everything from tempo runs to interval training, and then usually get in a longer run every week between 18 and 22 miles.”
To train like Kienzle does means he has to pay close attention to what he puts in his body. His wife, Tynae, is a runner, too. Grocery shopping is made easier when both are eating healthy, instead of one looking for fruits and vegetables and the other, ice cream.

They stick to fruits and vegetables as much as possible. But they do indulge in the occasional trip to Dairy Queen. A family member tipped him off to a service called emeals, which allows him to pick a diet plan, create recipes and generate a shopping list.

“I’m not crazy strict with my diet,” Kienzle said. “We get to the grocery store once a week, and most of our purchases come from (the produce) area. We’re able to make five meals from fish to steak and beef stew and a lot of other things. … We know what keeps us going. We don’t have anything high in sugar in our cabinets, and we eat lots of pasta, grains, fruits and vegetables.”

When Kienzle was at Malone, where he was a seven-time All-American in track and cross-country, his body recovered quicker from injuries. An injured foot for an elite runner is like blowing a tire on a long drive.

At 29 years old, Kienzle isn’t slowing down.


I feel like I’m getting stronger every year,” Kienzle said. “That’s what (Malone coach Jack Hazen’s) program primed us for. You don’t burn yourself into the ground.”

After the Houston Marathon, Kienzle noticed a pain in his knee. Rather than try to push through it, as many runners do, he took a day off, shut down and rested.

“You need a day off here and there,” Kienzle said. “It’s very difficult to train, not only physically, but mentally.”

What happens with most distance runners, though, is one day off means mileage for the week is down. They try to double up the next day. “It’s a lost day; don’t try to make it up,” Kienzle said.

Kienzle hopes 2014 is a breakthrough year for him. He set the course record in the Akron half-marathon last year. He is one of the top marathon runners in the state.

He is aiming higher, though. The Olympic Trials will be in Los Angeles in 2016. If you see Kienzle running after school in the North Canton area, he’s hoping those feet take him to California one day.


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