October Local Athlete Spotlight: Kelyn Soong
I met Kelyn Soong a number of years ago on a track in Bethesda, MD. My wife had been training partners with him at a martial arts studio, and we all met up to run. I was under the impression that Kelyn was just getting into running, but after chatting for a few minutes, he seemed to have more of a background than I had expected. We set out to run an interval workout consisting mostly of 400- and 800-meter repeats, and he hit his proposed paces perfectly. After the workout, I asked him if he had been taking advice from anybody; he did not look like a rookie out there! Kelyn asked me, “Do you know who Andrew Jesien is?”
Having grown up in this area and still been in contact with my high school coach, I definitely knew who Andrew was. A sub 4-minute miler, I feel Andrew raised the bar for high school distance running in Montgomery Country in the mid-2000s. It turns out that he, along with another runner, Danny George, were helping to guide Kelyn towards running a sub-5:30 mile. That had always been one of Kelyn’s track-related goals.
Kelyn ran three years of high school track, and the fastest mile he ran was during his senior year; he ran a 5:48. After trying and failing to get into running in college, he began to feel like he had given up too easily on his high school goal. “ I told myself that by being young and healthy, there was no reason why I could not a run 5:30 mile. With the help from my friends, Andrew and Danny, I was able to run a 5:30.1 mile at the end of the summer of 2011, after just over three months of training.” Inspired by his accomplishment, Kelyn naturally began to sign up for longer races, and his love of running grew from there. He is a passionate and motivated person, and Kelyn is also fortunate enough to be surrounded by some pretty inspirational people on a daily basis.
As an employee at the Washington Post, Kelyn is lucky to have the opportunity to work with an extremely talented, ambitious, and supportive team. “I get inspired just thinking of the journalists that I get to share the newsroom with, including Pulitzer Prize winners and some of the best, if not the best, sports writers in the country,” Kelyn tells me. He is responsible for a variety of tasks in the sports department, including producing chats, curating newsletters, and writing for the blogs. Kelyn has also had the chance to cover some pretty cool stories.
During this past year’s Cherry Blossom 10-miler in DC, Kelyn spent some time talking about running with Olympian Meb Kelflezighi. A few months before that, as a branch off a family trip to California, Kelyn hopped in a track workout with some professional runners from the NorCal Distance Project near Sacramento. In talking about the story idea with his team before his trip, Kelyn pitched the concept of what it would be like to run with the pros. How humbling would it be? When he arrived at the track, he found that Coach Drew Wartenburg and the runners were all incredibly welcoming and great sports about the idea. “One of the runners I ran with, Kate Grace, eventually reached the 800-meter final at the Rio Olympics. To be honest, it feels pretty cool to be able to say that I once tried to run alongside an Olympian.”
In just a couple weekends, Kelyn will compete with 30,000 other runners in the Marine Corps Marathon. If that race goes well for him, he might use that fitness as a platform to target some faster times in the 5K and 10K next spring. Leading up to this past summer’s Olympics, Kate Grace had a quote on her mirror that read, “Blame nobody. Expect Nothing. Do Something.” Kelyn has tried to live by those words. I was going to point it out after talking to him, but he reminded me that he still needs to go sub-5:30 in the mile.
Photo credit courtesy of Charlie Ban (interview with Meb), Drew Wartenburg (track shot in Cali), and Conroy Zien (shot of Kelyn running).