Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Looking forward to running for a home crowd

Patrick Kral placed 4th in Special Olympics race

By Shannon Russell
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Leaves crunch under Patrick Kral's shoes as he trains for the Flying Pig Marathon on miles of Connecticut roads. Patricia Kral pedals her bicycle nearby, toting water, as her son diligently follows routes set by his father George's training schedule.

Sunday's marathon isn't his first and it won't be his last. "Running makes me feel good," Patrick Kral said. "It's good exercise, and I do pretty good at it."

And he can't wait to show his hometown.

Special section
After Patrick was born at Good Samaritan Hospital with moderate to mild mental retardation, the Krals lived in Hyde Park for about eight years before moving east. The Flying Pig will be Patrick's sixth marathon and his first long-distance trek in Cincinnati, and he's excited about finishing before his grandparents, George and Ruth Kral of Finneytown.

Running has always come easy for Patrick, 24, who ran cross country and track at his alma mater, Guilford High School. He might not have been the fastest, but he ran with the fervor of a state champion.

"He came up to me after one cross country race and was so excited," George Kral said. "He said 'It was the first time I didn't finish last!' "

Small victories have always been a part of life for Patrick, who is articulate and is capable of more than reading and writing. He's also involved in a program that teaches him how to live alone. Since graduating in 2000 he has worked at a gym called Club Fitness, where he cleans machines and retrieves weights.

He has run the Long Island Marathon, Marine Corps Marathon, New York City Marathon and Greater Hartford Marathon. Last June he placed fourth in the Special Olympics World Games men's marathon in Dublin, Ireland.

"It was awesome," Patrick said of the World Games, which he intends to attend in 2007 in China.

George Kral, who used to be a casual jogger, said he gets "vicarious pleasure" out of designing Patrick's workouts. When Patrick was training for Ireland, George learned the formulas of other marathoners' regimens and tailored them to his son.

Patrick's best time was in Long Island, three hours and 45 minutes. He's hoping for a 3:40 or below at the Pig.

Iris Simpson-Bush, Flying Pig executive director, said the marathon does not keep track of how many of its runners have disabilities. Charities have brought marathon fans or sponsored runners with disabilities since the Pig's inception, and it's a trend the Pig would like to expand.

"It's part of our mission, to try to provide races for runners of all abilities," she said.

Patricia Kral said her son's gift is apparent whether he runs races suited for people with disabilities or not. Instead of living within limitations, she said Patrick is "a beautiful expression of 'you are what you are and you do the best with what you've got.' "

Though the Pig is next on his to-do list, Patrick is excited about his next marathon, and the one after that.

"When I'm 100 years old," he said, "I want to (have) run 100 marathons."


E-mail srussell@enquirer.com

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