KIM STARK is a great running name. Even her maiden name was cool: Kim Young. At 35 with a generous smile, she could easily pass for 10 years younger. One has to be reminded she’s been married for 12 years (to Robert Stark, MD) and has three children – Kaitlyn (10), Ethan (6) and Aidan (19 months). She says she follows no particular nutritional plan and likes running in the rain. Oh, forever young.
To meet her in shorts and a t-shirt (She says she’s “not really” fashion conscious, “but I do try to match. More of a comfort girl.”), she looks more like a collegiate high jumper, maybe a hurtler. (She tried high jumping in high school and it was not her thing.)
Kim is a runner, through and through. It’s what she does, but not all that she is. But she does like shopping at Banana Republic, TJ Maxx, “and Luke’s Locker for running clothes.” She wears the Asics and Brooks light weight trainers.
Born in July of 1974, she has two brothers. Her dad was a fire chief in DeSoto, and then Killeen where he retired, while mom still works in real estate. They lived in Garland with Kim attending South Garland High. (We returned to the track she used to compete on to take some of the pictures included here.) Her high school years were a growing period for the then shy, yet stubborn teenager. She says she was clumsy and adventurous, too.
“As a child I really enjoyed running and naturally took to the sport,” another case of whether running chose Kim, or she chose running.
Some how, she found her way into running during the middle school years and continued through high school, taking part in cross country and track. She was the only distance person at a school that was, and still is, consumed with sprinting events.
She went on to the University of Texas at Dallas, graduating in 1997 with a degree in psychology. She ran one year there, became injured, and decided to not run at the collegiate level any longer. “At that time, I didn’t enjoy running at all,” she says. She didn’t run after that experience for several years, the result of what is happening to the entire US distance running program.
In October of 1997, she married Robert at the Dallas Women’s Forum, having met him while both were in college. He proposed in Shreveport in front of both sets of parents. “He had told me we were all meeting his parents in Shreveport for dinner to celebrate his Mom’s birthday.” Robert had other plans.
Then her dad was diagnosed with lymphoma in Septemer 1999.Kim was inspired again. “I decided to raise money for the Luekemia and Lymphoma Society while training for my first marathon. My goal was to simply finish.” She finished the 2002 Mardi Gras Marathon and rediscovered that she liked to run. “I didn’t train for anything. I would jog just because I enjoyed getting to run, just run for fun, whenever I had time. The main influence for my getting back into running was my dad, and his strength in his battle against lymphoma.” She finished in 4:21:33, 182nd female and 31st in her age group. “Yikes!” she commented.
But there was another gap in her running as she took time off to have three beautiful children. In the spring of 2008, a friend got her to enter some races again. The Heart Of Heath 5K was her first race, winning overall (20:32 in 2008). Soon after, she was back, training harder. (She won the same race the following year later, over 2 minutes faster, in 18:27.)
The Heart Of Heath 5K ranks as one of her favorites races because it was her come back race, four months after her third child, Aidan, and her words, she “felt great!”
Other races include her first marathon mentioned above, and the Dallas White Rock Marathon (“I loved and hated it at the same time – if that makes sense. I realized how stubborn I can be.”) She ran with iliotibial – or IT – band syndrome, still qualifying for the Boston Marathon, but had to sit out a year because of the injury.
“I’m not sure I have a favorite. I have loved many for different reasons. I like to race anything from 5K to half marathons. I enjoy the races because of my experience, not because of the course, usually. Of course, I like fun and fast courses, but if I had to pick my favorites it would be because of personal milestones.”
She things the area races are good. “There are so many races in the area and the competition is great. The level of competition is fierce in Dallas and there are many great runners in the area. I think runners are supported well in the Dallas area. We are fortunate enough to have White Rock Lake and there are several local businesses that support us. I also like the fact that on any given weekend, there are usually multiple races to choose from.”
Recently, she’s upped her mileage per week to 55 preparing for the DRC Half Marathon and the San Antonio Half Marathon, but is battling plantar fasciitis. Come next spring, she’ll be focusing on the local 5K circuit.
Usually, her weekly schedule looks like the following:
Sunday: 12-14 miles
Tues: tempo/or track workout
Wed: easy miles
Thur: tempo/or track
Fri: easy miles
Sat: 9-12 miles
“I also try to do some yoga, weights, and bike. However, I’m lucky to get one of these in during the week.”
1500 – 5:01
5K – 18:17
13.1 – 1:28
26.2 – 3:23
Outside of running, Kim enjoys being with her family and friends and eating at Gloria’s and Chilosos in Rockwall. She also enjoys photography, reading (currently she’s reading My Sister’s Keeper – a novel by Jodi Picoult that tells the story of a young girl who sues her parents for medical emancipation when she is expected to donate a kidney to her dying sister, and Age is Just a Number by Olympic swimmer Dara Torres), and volunteering at her children’s school and church, First United Methodist of Rockwall.
What is the inner-Kim like, how does she view herself and running?
”I always like training while watching the sun rise in the morning. While I am running easy runs, my mind wanders and I often just enjoy the environment that I am running in. Running is very important to me. It has become part of who I am. The day is not complete if I do not go out on a run. As a busy mother of three, running gives me a chance for solitude. It also helps with burning the excessive amounts of energy that I have. All I usually need to inspire myself to go run is to put my running shoes on and get a little free time.”
Racing is a little different for her.
“On races or hard workout days, I’m thinking about form and pace and to keep my mind on the goal. I always like it when I have reached the top of the last hill on a course, when it’s all downhill from that point on. I love the feeling of uncertainty that I get right before each race. I love pushing myself and my body to reach limits of which I’m not sure I am capable. When I do reach a PR, I love feeling that sense of accomplishment.”
Her running partners are the Luke’s Racing Team several days a week, and the Rockwall Running Club. “The other days I run with whoever wants to run at the time I am running.”
Her future running goal is simple and universal, (“I just plan on getting faster at all distances.”), while in her career, she’s working on her Master’s degree in social work.
Her dad remains her hero. She says she’s always been amazed by the courage and strength of firemen, paramedics, and policemen. But another newer hero is her daughter, Kaitlyn, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was eight years old “and has handled her disease with ease and grace.” With her busy schedule, Kim says she also admires “Tri-athletes,” and people who manage to keep running as they age. [Bless you, Kim! ]
She climbs into her black SUV, all arms and legs, dressed comfortably, and drives home to two things: waiting closeness and a road to run on.