Running to change lives

Twenty-three years ago, entrepreneur and Lake County YMCA West End Board Member Kevin Tenkku’s body encouraged him to put on a pair of jogging shoes.

“My metabolism was slowing down,” Tenkku said. “I started running because I wanted a good outlet for myself mentally and, especially, physically. Running made me feel good.”

But what began as a simple way to maintain a good physical shape transformed into a lifelong passion for running—a passion he is now utilizing to tackle the Burning River 100-Mile Endurance Run to benefit the Lake County YMCA through its Annual Giving Campaign which provides membership assistance to children and families that otherwise would not be able to afford to participate in programs at the YMCA.

Like most runners, Tenkku started slow. “It takes a long time for your body to get used to running,” he said. “I tell [new runners] not to do too much too fast. It all comes in time.”

Tenkku began running races after a year of dedicated training. Tenkku estimated he’s competed in more than 50 races in the 23 years he’s been running. Those races include everything from 5K runs to half-marathons to ultra marathons.

“But this is my first 100-mile race,” he said.

It’ll be a grueling one, too.  The Burning River 100-Mile Endurance Run begins at Squire’s Castle in the North Chagrin Reservation of Cleveland Metroparks, zigzags southwest through Northeast Ohio trails and roads and ends at Falls River Square in Cuyahoga Falls. Participating runners must report at the starting point before 4:45 a.m., and they cannot “drop out” of the race at any point until reaching an aid station.

“After 54 miles or so, you can join a couple people who will pace you,” Tenkku said. “They’ll make sure I move at a certain pace and that I eat because I’ll be burning 500 plus calories an hour. It’s easy to get kind of goofy when you’re losing those nutrients.”

Tenkku is training for the July 31-August 1 race by running anywhere from 40-60 miles a week at all times of day. He said he’ll eventually work his way to 100 miles a week.

“I’m also lifting weights and completing other core exercises at the YMCA,” he said. “This kind of training will strengthen my overall body for the race.”

Not only is the Burning River Tenkku’s first 100-mile race, it’s also the first he’s run to raise funds for the YMCA.

“I selfishly ran before,” Tenkku joked.

Tenkku said a speech by YMCA Board Member Aaron Campbell inspired him to dedicate his running of the Burning River 100-mile Endurance Run to raising funds for the Lake County YMCA’s Annual Giving Campaign.

“Aaron Campbell asked board members to be active in serving and not just add the title to our resumes,” Tenkku said. “Driving home, that statement stuck with me and, from there, this idea of using my passion to raise money for the Y was born.”

“I know and trust the life-changing quality programs the YMCA continues to provide year after year,” Tenkku added. “I know they’ll use the money [I raise] for kids to attend programs at the Y, specifically kids whose parents can’t afford such programs.”

“We’re grateful for board members like Kevin,” said Dick Bennett, Executive Director and CEO of the Lake County YMCA. “He’ll affect the lives of countless kids in the area by running this race.”

“This race is more special because it’s for something I believe in,” Tenkku added.

Visit to follow Tenkku’s progress during the Burning River 100-Mile Endurance run and aid him in his efforts to raise money for the West End YMCA’s annual Giving Campaign by clicking “Donate Today.”


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