Member Spotlight: Will Landis

By: Kevin Brandon

Will, thanks for taking time to speak with us. Could you tell us a bit about yourself? How did you end up in Philadelphia and running with PRTC?

Kevin, thanks for having me on. In May of 2016 I graduated from Villanova (class of champions), and started running with PRTC this past fall. We know each other from high school and you encouraged me to start coming to workouts and long runs. I started working at CHOP after graduation and moved to Manayunk this past summer.

When did you first become a runner? Did a specific event compel you to take on the sport?

I first started running during middle school track, and continued both track and cross country in high school. I went into high school planning on playing soccer and tennis. However, a bad arm injury kept me out of most sports. I turned to running to stay in shape, but fell in love with cross country and never considered turning back.

Once you began running, how did your career develop? Take us through day one to today.

Day one was all about running with my best friend growing up, John. In 7th grade we started racing each other and it became a great rivalry. He usually got the best of me but we alternated 1 and 2 on our team by the last couple years of high school (Red Land). In college I ran on the club cross country and track team. It was a great atmosphere on the club, both fun and high quality running. There were a few members of the club that introduced me to the marathon and I ended up running my first marathon freshman year of college. The marathon has become my favorite event since then, and I’m currently training for my 3rd marathon, Boston 2017.

Yes, Red Land! We of course ran there together (a few years apart). Our coach, the fabled Larry Kell, was a meaningful influence in my life. We all seem to have at least one “Kell Story.” How would you describe the man? Can you share a favorite “Kell Story”?

Running at Red Land with you and the others was a great experience, and Coach Kell really helped to make it unique. He’s a determined but quirky man who lives on a farm (I worked there one summer) and teaches an in-depth driver’s ed course. A very traditional coach, we were always a fit team, and most of his athletes were pretty durable. There are a lot of great stories, but most are better if you know him. One of my favorites was the pre-race speech before PA District 3 Championships my freshman year. He was talking about Star Trek and Klingons and ended with the line, “Today is a good day to die.” Not sure how I took that as a 15-year old kid, but I ran horrible.

At Villanova, you faced an unexpected and scary health challenge. Can you tell us what happened and how it has since influenced your life?

During my sophomore year at Villanova I was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma. I have been cancer free for almost 3 years now and can honestly say I’m doing better than ever. As scary as it was, I really took it on as a learning experience. It opened me up to the world of medicine and has since influenced my career decisions. I’ve also really changed up my diet since then, and it’s helped me take advantage of living each day to the fullest.

As you were going through that challenge, I followed your blog (example: The Race Cancer did not Take from Me) documenting your journey. Did you find writing helped you fight through and recover?

One of the hardest things during my six month treatment course was dealing with the “how are you doing” question I would get from family and friends. I kept a blog so that I didn’t have to answer the same questions over and over again. But it also turned into a unique way to document that time in my life. Reading the blog back from the start, it’s almost like reading a book.

Can you tell us about a favorite running accomplishment or moment? How about a not-so-great moment?

My favorite running accomplishment was easily the 2015 Philadelphia Marathon. I smashed my first marathon time by 10 minutes, and easily qualified again for Boston, running 2:45:23. But I’ll add a win in the 4×1600 relay in high school as a favorite, relays are always fun and of course that’s a unique one. A not-so-great moment might also be from Philly 2015. I hit the biggest of walls at about mile 18 and had to work so hard to simply jog back down Kelly Drive. I ended up positively splitting by 9 minutes, that will not be the plan in Boston.

Regarding your running future, what are your near and long-term goals?

Well my near-term goal is Boston this coming April. If training goes as planned and the race is executed well, I think I could best my time from Philly 2015 by as much as 10 minutes. Long-term, it would be pretty awesome to break 2:30 in the marathon. I don’t know if I’m actually 2:29:59 talented, but at 23 I still have maybe 10 solid years of peak marathon performance. Plenty of time to chip away at the marathon. I think I also want to start “running” more marathons instead of “racing” them, a few a year. Running a marathon in every state would be cool, and on every continent. I really enjoy the marathon event and experience, especially in exciting and scenic venues.

What is it you do professionally? The most rewarding aspect of your job?

This past July I started working as a Clinical Research Engineer at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. I work in Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine on various studies, focusing on medical devices and data analytics. The main research topics I’m focused on are resuscitation and neuromonitoring. There are so many rewarding aspects to my job, obviously highlighted by improving the care of sick children. It’s really awesome to hear about our research having a direct positive impact on kids’ (and families’) lives.

Any non-running related hobbies, hidden skills or talents we may enjoy hearing about?

I love music – playing, singing and listening. I played in the orchestra in high school, was in choir in college, and I also play a little bit of piano. I’m a huge sports fan, Nova basketball of course, but soccer and tennis are two of my other favorites to watch or play on the side. Umm, I can also do a Rubik’s Cube in under a minute which some might think is pretty cool.
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