(NEWS10) — It’s running season and lots of people are trying their first 5k this spring, including a local man who thought he’d never be able to run. But wait until you see what he’d already accomplished before inspiring everyone who cheered him at the finish line on a recent weekend.
Kyle Stark works in a busy emergency room and is just as busy at home where he and his wife have three young children.
“Would you like a banana?” he asks their youngest as the oldest does homework.
He is on his feet all day despite not having any. It’s something made easier after the difficult decision he made to have both feet amputated.
“For a long time it was I’d work the few days and come home and crawl around the house because it would hurt too much to stand,” Kyle recalled.
Kyle was born with a spinal condition he says left both feet deformed.
“I think it was around second grade or so I started developing pressure ulcers, or holes, in the bottom of my feet and I pretty much never got rid of them,” he described. “I ended up getting infections in the bone multiple times.”
Those infections put him in the hospital constantly. It’s part of why he decided to become a nurse.
“I can’t tell you how many feet surgeries I had to try and fix it,” Kyle said. “I kinda grew up always in the hospital, met a lot of nurses over the years that helped me with a lot of things. We’re there for them and seemed like a good way to work with people and give back.”
He was even in the ICU while his wife was pregnant with their first child. Something had to change.
“There was a point before I got the legs amputated that I I wasn’t in the best mindset,” remembered Kyle. “They took off my right leg first I think. I left surgery in less pain than I went in to surgery.”
Taking something away – his legs – brought something back to Kyle – hope.
“There’s so many things I couldn’t do,” but now, said Kyle, “we go out hiking with the family, I’m able to run around with the three kids and there’s not that much we can’t do anymore.”
Kyle even tackled a Spartan race at Fenway Park last November.
“The Spartan was excellent. I was kind of happy I did an hour and 25 minutes. When I did the mud run here at Maple Ski Ridge, it was so bad I don’t think my time was even listed on it, but it was a lot of fun just to get it done, just to say you did it and you get done and you want to do more of them, you want to keep going.”
But one thing felt out of reach. Running.
“My father was a runner. He used to do marathons; my older brother did track; and I was just never able to,” Kyle said. “It was something that I said I want to try, just to do it, just to say you can do it.”
A chance encounter led him to the group Amputee Blade Runners, and after a successful application, he was fitted with free running prosthetics.
Those new running blades brought him across the finish line of the Schenectady Firefighters Run for Your Life 5k to cheers.
“First of all, you can do anything if you set your mind to it,” Kyle advised. “It’s not always easy, but if you keep being persistent and keep working at it, you can get anywhere.”