Born to Run: Lifelong Runner Kelly May Tackles the Race of a Lifetime

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Born to Run

Lifelong runner Kelly May challenges herself for the race of a lifetime with results that were beyond her dreams.

As the saying goes, dogs are man’s best friend. But let’s be real: dogs are every person’s BFF. For Kelly May, her 13-year-old Beagle, Hampton, had seen and comforted her through everything. “He’s my rock,” she says—through relationship ups and downs, a divorce, a layoff, and other life changes. In a similar way, running also had kept Kelly strong through the years, both emotionally and physically. “I started running as a pee wee in New York City, and have taken hiatuses from it over the years, but I always end up running again,” she says. “It is such a comfort to me.” Kelly’s two loves came together recently when she ran the New York City marathon for the first time while raising thousands of dollars for a cause close to her (and Hampton’s) heart. 

Not long ago, Kelly was horrified to learn that beagles are often used for lab testing. After cleansing her home of products linked to those tests, she wanted to do more. That’s when she submitted an application to, and was accepted as, a runner in the New York City marathon  to benefit the Beagle Freedom Project, which works to end animal testing. Although she had completed many half marathons and one full marathon by training herself, Kelly knew this time, she needed professional coaching. She turned to Bodies By Burgoon, signing up for Torque cycling classes and the gym’s virtual training program. 

“I have never been disciplined in sticking to a regular routine,” Kelly says. By staying in conversation with her trainer, Brianna Bernard, through email, phone, and Facebook messenger, Kelly was able to stay on track, even through minor slips. “The virtual training program helped me with accountability. Even through weeks I ‘hid’ from Brianna and didn’t send her my food log or just didn’t log my food at all for periods of time, I knew I was not doing what I should be. Having the guidance and someone to run things past and make sure I’m on the right track has made all the difference,” she says

Kelly began another 26.2-mile training in January, after completing Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth in 2016. This time, she wanted to train with professional guidance, so she combined customized workouts from Bodies By Burgoon, ran regularly with the Minnesota Distance Running Association, and took Bodies By Burgoon Torque spin classes to maintain variety. Kelly raced in the Twin Cities Marathon just a month before taking on New York.

Torque cycling held a fundraising class for Kelly’s cause that helped propel her over the goal she had, from $2,500 to $4,035. “I am so humbled by the 53 people who donated to my fundraiser and to Torque Cycling for holding a Pedaling for Kindness spin class on my behalf,” she says. “I thought I was going to have to write a check for most of that $2,500, so I was blown away by the support people have shown.” 

Back in New York (where she lived until her family moved away when she was 7), Kelly stood on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge on Staten Island with more than 50,000 other runners on November 5. The start of the race was emotional, Kelly says, having listened to the national anthem followed by Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.” The crowd, including her fiancé, Eric, her mother, stepdad, aunt and cousin, was a blur as she took off with the excitement and sights and sounds of the city all around her. She recalls thinking about her father, who passed away 25 years ago, looking on her from above, and when the miles grew longer and hills steeper, she thought about everyone who had supported her. “I wanted to walk, but I kept pushing myself and didn’t walk once,” she says. 

“At mile 24, my pacer looked at me and said, ‘You are looking so strong! Pick up your pace and you can finish this faster than 5:30.’ I put my headphones in and picked up my pace, knowing for sure this would be a PR day!” And it was; seemingly without much effort at the finish line, Kelly had her personal record. Seeing her family in the grandstands at the end was thrilling, she says, as was greeting Hampton at home when she returned to Minneapolis. “When I got home, I was so excited to tell him how well Mommy ran for all the Beagles,” she says. “He gave me a howl, a kiss, and went back to bed. He’s 13 now, and he needs his rest.”

For now, Kelly will rest and “maybe eat some cheeseburgers (don’t tell Brianna!),” but the down time won’t last for long. Up next: a half marathon in Chicago and maybe even another marathon next year. “I felt super prepared and very strong going into this race. The fact that I ran a PR, I accredit to the mix of strength and running that was laid out in my training plan and the accountability I had with this plan to do the work,” Kelly says. “It was the greatest feeling to be so prepared and see the hard work result in a PR!”

Virtual Training by Bodies By Burgoon

Weekly workouts are personalized and delivered through an app that links to a Polar or Garmin heart rate monitor. The 12-week program includes goal-setting consultation, food log and nutrition guidance and support, and 24/7 email support. Find more information here

Beagle Freedom Project

The program, run by the Los Angeles Animal Rescue, Media, and Education (ARME), negotiates with laboratories worldwide to secure the release of dogs and other animals to give them a chance at a normal home life. The project has long-term goal of an end to animal testing altogether.