A Baylor junior-to-be has overcome life’s hurdles – both figuratively and literally – in order to chase her dreams.
Kelsey Landrum ‘18 has been chosen from more than 56,000 amateur applicants to represent North and South America in the ASICS Beat the Sun Challenge, a relay race where six-person teams will try to circle Mont Blanc — the highest peak in the Alps – in 15 hours and 41 minutes. Eight teams comprised of three expert runners and three amateurs will be given from sunrise to sunset on the longest day of the year — June 21 — to conquer the strenuous 150-km trail, passing through France, Switzerland and Italy on their course.
The selection process included public online voting that Landrum won handily. “To run with the people that I have admired for so long in one of the most challenging races in the world is truly one of the most humbling and exciting experiences,” Landrum says. “I am so thankful for the Baylor community’s support, and grateful to each person that has encouraged me!
Landrum, who lives in Bartonville, TX, but has grown up in a number of cities across the country, will travel to France about a week before the race to give herself time to adjust to the altitude and to train for the first time as a team.
“This final stretch of training is focused on maintaining our current level of fitness and endurance and tapering down the amount of running we do in order to be in the most rested and strongest shape come race day,” she says. “I do hope to do some sightseeing while I am there, though the trip is mainly focused on preparing for this incredible race!”
To prepare for the race, Landrum is on a strict training schedule. She lifts weights, does plyometric exercises (high-intensity strength workouts involving jumping and other quick movements) and Pilates, sprints on the track, and runs longer distances.
“My big run days are on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays,” Landrum explains. “Resting is just as important as training, so I rest on Wednesdays and Sundays.”
Landrum’s training may sound mundane, but the past few years have made even the dullest of workouts seem miraculous. At the beginning of her high school career, she began experiencing gradual paralysis of her right foot, leg and hip. Landrum and her parents visited about 200 medical professionals, all of whom were baffled by her mysterious symptoms.
Eventually, her leg was completely paralyzed, possibly due to a strange mass that had appeared on Landrum’s right hamstring. The doctors were concerned that the young athlete would never walk again and told her that her running days were over.
Instead of accepting the doctors’ words and giving up, Landrum got to work. With physical therapy, training, determination and faith, she’s been steadily proving the doctors wrong for several years. Today, she can walk and run with no signs of paralysis or pain.
“I knew that I would overcome [the paralysis] and I was at peace with it because I knew God had a wonderful plan,” Landrum said. “Seeing it pay off is incredible. I was so determined to not let that overcome me or limit me, but I think more importantly, to not let someone else’s opinions limit me.”
At Baylor, Landrum is majoring in public health with plans to eventually pursue a master’s degree in epidemiology or global infectious disease. She’s also minoring in Spanish, which she plans to use with teammates and the press on her trip.
Kelsey hopes to work for the government in a public health profession concerned with forensic epidemiology or bioterrorism after she graduates. Her own experiences have largely shaped this decision, she says.
“I think the public health route wouldn’t have worked if I hadn’t had to meet with so many medical professionals,” Landrum said. “It definitely not only shaped my running, but it also shaped where I wanted my life to go.”
- Are you currently involved in any organizations on campus? I’m the vice president of SIGHT (Students Improving Global Health Together), a pre-health organization focused on empowering and equipping students in different areas of the global and public health field, whatever their interests and passions are. [This organization] can be tailored to whatever each student wants. We bring in lots of guest speakers, and have lots of opportunities to meet with different health officials and learn from them and from each other. It’s definitely something great you can put on a resume, but our mission goes much further than that. And in my case, I have combined my work with SIGHT with my volunteer work with the U.S. Fund for UNICEF to work on various public health campaigns, such as those for childhood immunization.
- What’s something we wouldn’t see on your resume? I taught myself how to play acoustic guitar! I play lots of country music. I picked it up during the time I wasn’t able to run and I play by ear now.
- Which Baylor professor has had the greatest impact on you? Lisa Baker. She was the advisor for Students Improving Global Health Together. She’s been helping me and providing me with different opportunities and people to guide me through decisions in the field of healthcare. She’s a wonderful and encouraging person. She was one of the first professors to genuinely want to get to know me, and she’s been an amazing mentor.
- What’s on your bucket list? I was a competitive horseback rider at one point, so I’d love to ride in Ireland or other parts of Europe.
- What inspires and motivates you to train? With [the paralysis] I experienced, I could wake up and not be able to run again. But I remember how many people are unable to run or unable to train, and there are so many people who wish they could, so that reminds me to be thankful and see it more as an opportunity than as something I have to do.
- What’s your favorite spot on campus? Burleson Quadrangle. There is so much history that has walked through there, and it reminds me how lucky we are to be part of such an incredible university. I find that it is such a beautiful and peaceful place to study as well.
- Where are your favorite places to run? I run the Bear Trail, throughout campus and through Cameron Park at least three to four times each week! I love exploring new running trails and parts of campus. East Brazos Park is also a wonderful place to run!
- What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? To never let anyone else set your limits for you. My parents told me that, a couple of doctors told me that, coaches have told me that. It was pretty universally said throughout my medical issues and something I needed to be reminded of.
By M. Elizabeth Starr ’16