Back in August, Kaden Litzinger, 15, got a concussion playing soccer. It was the third concussion for the State College Area Delta Program high school student and it was suggested that she quit soccer.
“It was definitely hard at first because soccer was such a big part of my life. I’ve been playing since I was five or six and everyone else in my family played and I met a lot of community members playing soccer and friends,” said Litzinger. “When I took up running it was a really good place holder and I found something else that I was really passionate about and I love.”
Despite losing her opportunity to play the game she’d grown up playing, Litzinger didn’t let it keep her down. Instead she started to seek another challenge.
Due to a convergence issue in her eyes that prevents her from tracking small objects, sports like softball, field hockey and lacrosse were out of the question. Other team sports didn’t interest her either.
Really, it was an accident that Litzinger got into running when she did.
“Both of my parents are long distance runners and I was at the Rothrock Trail Challenge, which I’ll be doing in another month or two,” said Litzinger. “I saw all of my parents’ friends and all of the community members in State College and I was honestly kidding when I said to my parents, ‘Hey, I’ll run a half-marathon.’ They said, ‘Sure! We’ll sign you up.’
“It started as a joke and it turned into one of my greatest passions.”
Just like that her journey started. With only two and a half months until her first half-marathon, The Dam Half Trail Race in Mifflinburg, she started training.
“I tried to do as much training as possible because I had never actually done any long-distance running before,” said Litzinger. “The most I had ever run was a 5k, and that was in fifth grade. I really wanted to prepare myself so that I wouldn’t get hurt and make sure I’d be able to finish.”
Having played soccer for so long, Litzinger wasn’t starting from scratch by any means but her training intensified.
“I would run during the school week, two to three times and on the weekends I would do long runs,” said Litzinger. “For soccer it was really just training two times a week and possibly a game on the weekend.”
Litzinger finished the Mifflinburg race on Sept. 17, 2017, in 3:39:06. In October, she traveled to Hershey for the Hershey Half Marathon where she improved by over an hour, clocking in at 2:20:11.
The Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon in Alexandria, Va., came in November followed by the Nittany Valley Half-Marathon here in State College in December. Litzinger finished in 2:25:43 and 2:25:44, respectively.
Most recently was the Fred Lebow Manhattan Half Marathon in Central Park in New York City in January.
“Honestly, I think the most recent one was my biggest accomplishment because I PR-ed by about ten minutes,” said Litzinger. “Going in I wasn’t really expecting anything. I hadn’t trained for it, I was kind of tired … When I started I felt really good, I kept pushing myself and pushing myself.
“There was actually a pace group behind us and because I’m a pretty competitive person from playing soccer I thought, ‘I just want to beat this pace group.’ It wasn’t until I had crossed the finish line that I realized how much I had PR-ed.”
Litzinger finished the half marathon in New York in 2:13:39.
As her successes continue to accumulate, Litzinger looks to ever raise the stakes. Her next challenge will be the Hyner Trail Race, a 25K, followed by Rothrock, a local 17.6-mile race.
She believes that running is truly a sport for anyone involved if they put their mind to it.
“Most of running is completely mental,” said Litzinger. “Anyone can do what I’m doing. You just have to believe in yourself, stay driven and stay focused.”
“I would definitely recommend everyone trying (to run a half-marathon, or another race). I know it seems a bit daunting but it’s a very rewarding experience. You feel so amazing and so accomplished afterward. It doesn’t matter how fast or how slow you go as long as you believe in yourself and get it done.”