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Stephen Koenigsfeld

When 2013 RAGBRAI riders begin dipping the back wheels of their bikes into the Missouri River on July 21, ISU alumnus Richard Kresser will be doing something a little different.

Kresser will be lacing up his running shoes, and will set out to run the distance of this year’s Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI).

The support came in with overwhelming numbers, Kresser said, when he expressed the idea of running the annual ride to family and friends.

“I got this idea to just go for it, and everyone else has just decided to throw in their support,” Kresser said. “Just fantastic support both from my family as well as a lot of family friends from my childhood.”

Kresser’s sister, Carolyn, said the idea of Richard running RAGBRAI helped her reconnect with her brother.

“In the past couple years, I have been able to reconnect with him and I moved up to Washington [state] in October and that’s where he stays,” Carolyn said. “It’s been great because we haven’t been in the same place in over a decade.”

The inception

The idea sparked interest in Richard’s mind during the week of Thanksgiving in 2011. After completing what he said seemed like a daunting task, things didn’t turn out to be so bad after all.

The Quadzilla race took place during four days of the Thanksgiving weekend. In that time, Richard laced up his shoes, and set off for his journey.

“It’s four marathons in four days, starting Thanksgiving day all the way through the following Sunday,” Richard said. “It seems intimidating at first, but I discovered there that after the first day, after you get back out and get warmed back up, your body can just go.”

It was at the 2011 Quadzilla race where Richard began his back-to-back running days, often completing 30 to 50 miles on a given Saturday and coming back to do another 30 to 40 miles on Sunday.

Carolyn said she has fun watching her brother push himself to the physical limits of the human body. Completing 100-mile race events to high mileage training, Carolyn said she has faith in Richard.

“Once he puts his mind to something, he always sees it through,” Carolyn said. “Which can be scary, because he comes up with some pretty crazy ideas. But it’s been in his mind for a couple years and he’s constantly working on that.”

Woahs and woes

Like most ultramarathon runners, Richard said the ability to do consecutive marathon days can be taxing. In his time spent training, there have been definite highlights, as well as some scares.

In early June, Richard finished first in a 50-mile race he signed up for, only after completing a 20-mile run the day before. The day after the 50-mile race, he ended the weekend with a 25-mile run. 

But even the high mileage accomplishments weren’t the highlight.

“A lot of it is the community of ultra runners,” Richard said. “Marathon runners are a little more ingrained in their training and their time and pace. Where ultra runners and trail runners are much more laissez-faire about everything.”

With the amount of mileage Richard does each week, there have been occasions for him to take some time off. Once, while hoping to take an easy weekend, Richard hit a small speed bump in what he called a nearly perfect running schedule.

“I went out rock climbing with a friend in Leavenworth, Wash., and it was supposed to be nice and easy rock climbing,” Richard said. “But I came back with back spasms and a sharp pain in my right knee.

“I was freaking out that my body was going to crap after that, but I gave it some rest and came back and have had no issues since.”

Something Carolyn has seen from Richard as a possible hindrance has been the amount of time she sees him putting toward not only training, but his social life as well.

“I know he’s had some down moments too. He gets busy and he’s trying to do all of his job requirements and still have time for a social life,” Carolyn said. “So, sometimes he gets a little frustrated, spending a lot of time in the car, going to and from work and he’d rather be out running.”

The cause

While in the middle of his busy training schedule, Richard Kresser has found a cause for his event. All of the proceeds Kresser raises before and during his run, will go to the Iowa Veteran’s Home, a foundation near and dear to Kresser.

“I have a lot of ties here, especially to the Midwest, and with my background of being deployed in Afghanistan and being a veteran. I knew I wanted to give back to a veteran’s organization with this run,” Kresser said.

Kresser heard of the Iowa Veteran’s Home after talking with friends in the surrounding area and saw it fit for what he was trying to accomplish.

The funds Kresser is donating to the Iowa Veteran’s Home will go to a cause called biofeedback. 

“It’s been around for quite a while. But what it does, is it has electrical sensors that you stick to your body and from there, you can see responses to certain kinds of therapy on a screen. From there, you can see how the therapy lowers your relaxation,” Kresser said.

After multiple sessions with the biofeedback program, Kresser said the patient won’t need medication for pain or PTSD. He said it is a way to go completely off medication and just use the patient’s mind to heal.

At the end of the day, there’s only one thing Richard said he’s looking forward to about running RAGBRAI.

“Jumping into the Mississippi River at the end. I just keep visualizing,” Richard said. 

“Usually you do the tire dip. The rear tire and the front tire. Well, I’m just barreling straight into the Mississippi.”