Meet Ryan Cornelison of Corner Construction, and Dan Kelly, of Kelly Electric. On November 1, this local running duo is taking on the New York City marathon. It will be the first time either has run 26.2 miles. With the support of Achilles International, this race is a dream made possible for Dan.
Over the past four years of running together, the two St. Augustine High School graduates and local business owners have completed three half marathons and three Gate River 15Ks, side by side.
The NYC Marathon is a dream realized for Dan, who is visually impaired. In partnership with Achilles International, Ryan will be serving as Dan’s guide for this monumental event. Rather than using a tether system, in their years of training together, they have naturally established a method where they maintain their pace and Ryan gives Dan a verbal heads up if there’s anything in their path such as curbs, steps, people, etc., and he adjusts accordingly. For the NYC Marathon, the two are preparing to maneuver around an estimated 48,000 people. Beyond this race being a milestone accomplishment for both Ryan and Dan, it’s also a mission to support fellow athletes. Dan is raising money for Achilles International, to support athletes with various disabilities in bringing their dreams to life.
Our extended interview with Ryan & Dan offers up an inside look at their running journeys and explores what this undertaking means to them.
How long have you been involved in the St. Augustine community and in your current business operations?
DAN: I have lived in Saint Augustine since I was five years old. I am currently 37 years old so you could say I’ve been here for most of my life and love it. I’m not sure there’s any place else I’d rather live. In regards to my profession, I am a third generation electrician. My brother and I are in the process of taking over Kelly Electric from my father who has decided to retire. You could say that I have been involved in the electrical trade since I was old enough to pick up a pair of pliers.
RYAN: I was born and raised in St. Augustine, went to UCF for college and lived in Orlando for a few years after school. I worked for a large national home builder and married my wife Kim in 2004. She was also from St. Augustine and after our first child was born in ’07, we decided to start a construction company and move home. We opened Corner Construction in March of 2007 and have been growing our business here ever since.
Tell us about your running backgrounds:
DAN: I began running about six years ago. I found myself pretty overweight and was on the way to some bad health conditions and my solution was to begin running. At first I did not like it at all; however, once I started to see results in the form of weight loss, I began to really enjoy the sport.
RYAN: I was an athlete growing up and participated in many team sports; however running was never an enjoyable activity to me. I’ve worked with Dan professionally since moving back to St. Augustine and saw him transform his life through running. I expressed interest to him about starting myself and he’s the one who got me outside my comfort zone and into running.
How long have you been friends and running together?
DAN: Ryan and I have known each other since high school. However our friendship really began to grow when we started doing business together. I now consider Ryan one of the closest friends I have. Ryan and I started running and training together close to four years ago. I had run a couple of half marathons with another friend and convinced Ryan he could be capable of running a half marathon and so we began training together and have never quit training together.
How did you get involved with Achilles?
DAN: For a year or two I was flirting with the idea of running a full marathon; however, I was not sure that any of my friends that run with me would be interested in training and completing that distance. So I began researching ways that visually impaired people like myself could complete this task and stumbled across Achilles. I was very excited when I came upon their website and immediately joined their organization.
RYAN: Dan has led the way in terms of Achilles. Really, he is the one who is always pushing us to set goals and run farther. When he started mentioning that he may be running the NYC marathon and would need a guide runner, I then researched what it would take to become an approved guide.
Tell us about about the guide application process:
RYAN: If I didn’t apply to be a guide runner, Achilles would have selected one for him. Basically, Dan voiced his recommendation to have me be his guide since he’s accustomed to our system. I then submitted an application to Achilles and awaited approval. Oftentimes guide runners use a tether method, but since we’ve run every race together without it, we won’t be using one. The Gate River Run is the most crowded race we’ve run until this point, (20,000+ people) but we’ll be running among 48,000 people at the NYC marathon. Maneuvering around people in a race is always a challenge, and even more so for us because we need to avoid being separated. We’ve naturally established a method where we maintain our pace and I give him a verbal heads up if there’s anything in our path such as curbs, steps, people, etc., and he adjusts accordingly.
What does this race mean to you?
DAN: This race means a lot to me because I was not sure if I could ever complete the rigorous training and make it at that distance. However throughout this training process and with the support of Ryan I now believe I can. And I am also very excited to be raising funds in the process to support Achilles.
RYAN: Running this race is a very real and measurable example of setting a goal, working toward it, then reaching it. I was intrigued by the challenge. I can’t wait to cross the finish line with my good friend. Despite his disability, Dan has more optimism than anyone I know. His confident attitude toward life is inspiring and infectious.
How long have you been working toward this race?
DAN: Our training process was supposed to start in early July however it got sidetracked a bit because I had an emergency operation to remove my appendix the week before our training program was supposed to start. So now we have shortened the program and will have been training for about 15 weeks before the race.
What would you say to someone who wants to begin training for a marathon, or any major undertaking, but feels they have something holding them back from doing so?
DAN: I believe that determination and willpower are extremely powerful things and if you invest your effort in those things you can be capable of accomplishing anything that you focus on. Especially if you add in the support of friends and family. In regards to the marathon, I would advise people to not let disabilities or other roadblocks stand in the way. Just approach the task 1 mile at a time. Do not try to step back and look at the entirety of all the miles in the training program or start running 26.2 miles in your mind from day one. Just trust that if you believe in your self and stick with something, anything is possible.
You can find this duo in the October/November 2015 Print Issue of St. Augustine Social Magazine. Photography by Brian Miller, exclusively for St. Augustine Social.