Joy Kagendo, a Health and Exercise Studies professor, is originally from Kenya and came to the United States to further her education. In addition to her love of physical education, Kagendo is an active runner and participates in several races every year.
“Children run everywhere in Kenya,” Kagendo said. “It is part of the way of life.” Kagendo attended a boarding school where they ran every morning before school started. In addition, she was involved in several sports including volleyball, cross-country, and dance. “Running comes easily to me now because it was something I always did,” said Kagendo.
After her schooling, Kagendo ran on her own until 2013, when she joined a group called “Black Girls RUN!”. The national organization encourages African-American women to make fitness and healthy living a priority. Her first half-marathon was the City of Oaks in 2013. Just a year later, she completed her first full marathon: the Rock’n Roll marathon. She began running with the group regularly, and continued participating in half and full marathons a few times each year, including races in Raleigh, Richmond, and Wilmington. In 2015, Kagendo placed 3rd in her age group in the Skinny Turkey half marathon, which she runs every Thanksgiving Day.
In 2016, Kagendo injured her knee from overuse and was instructed to only perform low-impact exercising. Later during the year, Kagendo unexpectedly suffered scar tissue buildup in her intestines which resulted in her requiring surgery and hospitalization. The stomach complications made Kagendo realize her previous knee injury was preventing her from doing the things she loved. She began running again, despite the injuries setting her back, and completed a full marathon in 2016.
“I’ve done so many half marathons, I can’t even count,” said Kagendo. The past 6 years of completing races and running with a group have created great memories and given her great friends. She encourages all of her students to find ways to exercise that bring them happiness.