Cancer diagnosis leads man to embrace running in sandals, develop healthy lifestyle

Former sales executive also follows plant-based diet.

Unlike heart disease, which experts say is almost 80% preventable through lifestyle changes, some cancer occurrence is often not related to any particular cause. But Randy Kreill of Beavercreek, decided he wanted to have more control over his future, when a cancer diagnosis in 2004 turned his world upside down.

After graduating from Wright State University in 1984 with a degree in marketing, Kreill began to build his career, beginning with a stint in subscription sales with the Dayton Daily News and eventually becoming a successful account executive.

“I resigned in January of 2003 to raise my three daughters full time,” Kreill said. “Then the next year, I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of thyroid cancer.”

When his grandfather passed away, Kreill fell ill shortly after the funeral. Thinking it was a sinus infection, he dismissed it as nothing serious until his daughter noticed a lump in his neck near his collarbone.

“I went to get an X-ray and it turned out I had a very large goiter in my neck,” Kreill said. “I was having panic attacks and losing sleep.”

Before surgery to remove the growth, doctors told Kreill they were almost certain it was benign. But afterwards, a biopsy revealed cancer. After a second surgery, Kreill began heavy doses of radiation. Treatments continued over the next year.

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“I came away from that knowing that cancer patients are more likely to have future cancers,” Kreill said. “I became very focused on what might have been the root cause.”

At 70 pounds overweight and suffering from foot pain, Kreill started to research cancer and potential causes. Why were certain people less prone to getting cancer?

“My vision had been getting poor and I had low energy,” Kreill said. “My cholesterol was also very high, and I really wanted to get off all my meds after my cancer. But I kept failing.”

Kreill’s research eventually led him to plant-based diets – a way of eating that does not include animal products. In December of 2010, he converted his diet to 100% plant based. After three months, his cholesterol dropped and continued to stay low.

“I flushed all my pills down the toilet and devoted myself to my new plant-based lifestyle.”

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The year prior, Kreill had started working on weight loss and decided to start running again, after giving it up years before. Also in 2009, he participated in the United States Air Force Marathon but said he barely crossed the finish line, limping in on one leg and in great pain.

While visiting a shoe shop in Xenia, Kreill noticed a book - “Born to Run,” authored by Christopher McDougal, that he calls life-changing. In the book, the author sets out to answer one question: “Why does my foot hurt?”

“I got my own copy at the bookstore, and it just resonated with me,” Kreill said. “It’s about an outdoor athlete who was always in pain as a runner.”

Kreill learned that the reclusive Tarahumara Indians living in the Copper Canyons in Mexico, ran hundreds of miles wearing homemade sandals. It also turned out that the Tarahumara diet is 90% plant based.

“These people never stop running their whole lives,” Kreill said. “They have guys in their 90′s who can run long distances on tough trail conditions. They have no heart disease or cancer and no depression or diabetes.”

Still a full-time dad living in Beavercreek, Kreill decided to adopt the Tarahumara’s best habits, including researching where he could get similar huarache style sandals. He found them at an online company called Xero Shoes.

“My life changed again when I bought these crazy looking sandals,” Kreill said. “I had to put them together and figure out how to lace them the best way.”

The Xero Shoes DIY sandal, originally called “Invisible Shoes,” is what Kreill ordered and, after perfecting his lacing technique, he created a video, uploaded it to YouTube and ended up with close to 2,900 subscribers. And on his 50th birthday – Aug. 25, 2012 – he participated in a Triathlon at Caesar Creek State Park, running a full marathon in his new “invisible shoes.”

“Wearing the sandals is a constant reminder to pick up my feet,” Kreill said. “I’ve learned how to run properly and use my core.”

On July 30 of this year, Kreill completed his 79th race at the age of 59, completing 100 miles in just under 30 hours. To date he has finished 24 100-mile races. And today, as he celebrates 60 years of life, Kreill is healthy and pain free. And extremely grateful.

Grateful that he and his wife, Megan can run together and continue spending quality time with daughters Lindsay, now 24, Emma, 22 and Arin, 20.

“At the age of 42, I wondered if I’d be around to see my girls grow up,” Kreill said. “Cancer shook me to the core, but the lifestyle changes flipped a switch from a life drifting by and based on fear, to a life of faith, hope, joy and adventure.”

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