LaGrange Park dad takes on Ironman to help protect kids

Jane Michaels | @janemichaels22
June 20 1:45 p.m.

Ironman Benefit

Sponsor: Ken Kaczmarz

Where: Brixie’s, 9526 Ogden Ave., Brookfield

When: 3 to 10 p.m. Aug. 3

What: a portion of food and drink sales will be donated to Kaczman’s Ironman quest to benefit World Vision’s Child Protection programs

Competition: Ford Ironman Triathlon Sept. 7 in Madison, Wis.

Donations: Donate to Ken!

LaGrange Park resident Ken Kaczmarz didn’t lace up running shoes much before 2009. Since then the 43-year-old electrical engineer has run eight marathons and has his sights set on a grueling Ironman competition Sept. 7 in Madison, Wis. to benefit World Vision’s child protection programs.

Q. Why did you start running?

A. I had some deadline projects at work. It was very stressful. I’m director of the electrical engineering department for CompX International, Inc. in Grayslake. I started running one day to the end of the block, and after a few months, I ran a 5K. As I got into it, my church, Christ Church of Oak Brook, had a team for World Vision. I joined their team and did the Chicago Marathon in 2011.

Q. What about the other components of the Ford Ironman Triathlon, swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112 miles, besides running a marathon of 26.2 miles?

A. I love swimming. I swam in high school. I have no issues with running. I’ve gotten the biking training I’ve needed, so I think I’m OK. I have 17 hours to finish, and I’m hoping to do it in 14 hours.

Q. Do you have any other concerns for attempting the Ironman?

A. The thing I’m most scared about is food. I have been told I have to eat during this event or I will fail, based on the estimate I have to bring in 300 calories per hour, according to my weight. So in addition to training for stamina, I’m working on eating while I’m running, so my stomach doesn’t get upset.

Q. How is your nutrition training going?

A. The other day I had two breakfast burritos in the middle of a run to see if my stomach would be upset. I seemed to run faster. I’m relieved as to not having issues. If I get a stomach cramp, I’m in trouble, because I have to have to so many calories available.

Q. Besides the physical challenge, what else motivates you to tackle the Ironman?

A. With the ability to raise money for enslaved children, I thought this is something I should be doing. World Vision helps children involved in child trafficking, child slavery, child soldiers, those who are under-aged in forced labor. Programs also fight female genital mutilation, a horrible practice.

Q. This cause is also highly personal?

A. One of the reasons I became involved was because as a kid, I was molested by a priest. I was extremely active in the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests from 2002 to 2006. I was one of the leaders in Chicago, but I had to get out of it. It was absorbing my life. I’ve helped hundreds of survivors, so I saw what sexual abuse does and how it destroys lives.

Q. How did you set your fundraising goal? 

A. The first two years, the Chicago team for World Vision raised money for clean water projects. In 2011, I raised $2,000, then it was $4,000 in 2012 and $9,000 in 2013.  I thought if I were going to do the biggest event, the Ironman, I might as well try and raise the most money. I’m a little over halfway to my goal of $10,000. This is all completely out of my norm. I’m not a fundraiser. I just enjoy rock and roll and a beer.

Q. How do you balance all the training with your family?

A. My family supports me. Nadia, 13, has done a half marathon with me. Nina, 15, ran a 5K with me and does swimming. My wife, Barb, ran a 10K race with me. We all go to the health club together, or run through the neighborhood.