Dacula resident Kyleigh Kramlich has competed in close to two dozen road races, including marathons and half-marathons, but she will be competing in her first Peachtree Road Race this Thursday and she admits she’s a little tense.
“Excited? Maybe. Nervous? Yes,” said Kyleigh, 17, through a mini-computer she activates with her eyes. “I’m always a little nervous before race day.”
When asked why she’s drawn to road races, Kyleigh — who was born with cerebral palsy — said, “I love the wind in my hair and the people cheering.”
Kyleigh’s mother, Christine Kramlich, said that Kyleigh has been able to participate in road races thanks to the Kyle Pease Foundation, an Atlanta-based organization that helps the disabled “meet their individual needs through sports.”
“When Kyleigh tried to qualify, she needed a new race chair and the Kyle Pease Foundation made her a nice, souped-up chair,” said Kramlich. “They got it road-ready and now Kyleigh is super fast.”
Kramlich said her daughter became interested in road racing about three years ago, when she attended Camp Wheel-A-Way in Winder.
“Kyleigh went to the weekend camp and they let her try out the race chairs and they went climbing and boating and all kinds of fun stuff,” she said. “She loved it and because she had so much fun there and because she’s really an active kid — she likes to do outdoor adventures — she heard about this racing and wanted to give it a try. And she’s been hooked ever since.”
Competing in road races has done a lot for Kyleigh, who attends Hebron Christian Academy, both on and off the road, Kramlich said.
“Racing has really built her confidence and has helped her meet people she never would have met, and interact with people I don’t think she’d have a chance to interact with,” she said. “People have really seen how hard she works and how much effort she puts in, not just in her racing, but in living life every day. It’s pretty neat for everybody — the relationships she’s built and the friendships she’s made through the foundation.”
Pushed by Yvonne Leeb, Kyleigh qualified for the Peachtree Road Race — which this year celebrates its 50th anniversary — with a nice finish at the Heart and Soles 5K in February. Kyleigh and Leeb will team up again on Peachtree.
“A good team? Yes,” said Kyleigh of her collaboration with Leeb.
Kyleigh said that after she runs a couple more marathons she might be up for trying an Ironman (event). That might be where the future is heading, but she’s still not sure. It’s a big deal and after she runs in a few more marathons she’ll feel pretty confident.
Kramlich said she was grateful to the Kyle Pease Foundation for helping to get her daughter involved in hitting the road.
“It’s an amazing opportunity,” she said. “Kyleigh and Kyle from the Kyle Pease Foundation are a lot alike in their thinking and they way their bodies move, so they have a special connection. Kyleigh has really enjoyed getting to know Kyle over these past few years and he’s somebody she really looks up to.”