Athlete Profile: Kya Hemp


402394_10152863064942964_2761841995636244626_nKya Hemp found her fitness three years ago in the process losing 70lbs and finding OCR. Not only did she find it but she found her competitive nature as well. This 24-year old living in Fullerton, California lives life to the max. Learn a little bit more about her journey.

How did you get involved in your sport?

I tried my first 5k about three years ago, back when I was still obese. A year later, after I worked off about 70 lbs, I ran a local 10k with my mom. Little by little, I started to get more active and look into bigger challenges. 

Were you always an athlete? 

Definitely not! In fact, I grew up being overweight, and during high school, I was morbidly obese, with a BMI reaching 49! At age 20, I stood at 4’11 and 245 lbs. I would get winded walking up a flight of stairs, and a normal day for me would consist of getting off work, finding the nearest drive thru, ordering about three different meals (I could never decide what I wanted most) pretending that half the orders were for other people, then going home, scarfing it down, watching tv and doing the exact same thing the next day. Definitely wasn’t running high school track, or even walking on one. 


What are some of your athletic achievements?

10609507_10152612040937964_4961881867782872393_nAlthough I have yet to get first place in any big races, I earned 4th place in my DIV in Worlds Toughest Mudder, 2014. I placed 5th in my DIV in the SoCal Spartan Beast (Or-Beast from HELL as some would say- temperatures reached 116 degrees that day!) and completed my first marathon with BOTH of my parents earlier in October in the Long Beach Marathon. I was also informed that I qualified for OCR World Championships and hope to be fast enough to qualify again in 2015. 

What are your goals for the upcoming season?

I would like to increase my upper body strength for sure! I plan to run WTM2015 and Spartan Ultra next October. I also want to focus on Everest. I’m a short girl (4’11) but I don’t want my height to be an excuse. I think practice makes perfect.  

10172577_10152874016467964_4493450583224148006_nWho is/are your inspiration?

My dad. He’s an adrenaline junkie just like myself and was one of the main contributors to helping me get healthy and lose weight. He’s 70 years old and still runs marathons and is one of the last remaining Legacy Runners with the L.A. Marathon. 

What is your most proud moment in sport?

Finishing Worlds Toughest Mudder. With no pit crew, the sandstorm, and the winds reaching 70MPH, I’m shocked I did as well as I did. So many athletes got sick, and nearly everyone was hypothermic (including myself) I didn’t come fully prepared (equipment-wise) and never even bought a real full body wetsuit, and ran in three pairs of my oldest running shoes. My logic was that they were going to get ruined anyways and I couldn’t afford to buy any legitimate trail running shoes or other fancy gear. I didn’t even bring gloves. I reached my breaking point at about 9am the next day and was barely making it back. A new friend, Kevin Chow was helping to keep me motivated. Just knowing I was going to have to  re-submerge myself in water at the cliff jump one final time before the finish was enough to make me start to cry, but with the help of so many other WTM-ers and course volunteers spreading positive words of encouragement, I was able to keep going and make it to the end. I finished 35 miles and got 4th place in my age group. It was well worth it. 

10373658_10152408276692964_189276323954302443_nWhat is your most proud moment in life?

How do you overcome a bad race or training day? I’m very hard on myself, and in the past, it would upset me so much if I didn’t PR and I’d start blaming myself and questioning my choices. My dad pointed out to me (after many attempts) that even for the best athletes in the world, not every race is going to be a new PR. And when I struggle, just think of Rocky, and give myself room to improve and make an even more unexpected comeback. This has helped keep me from over training and stressing out.

What is your training routine like?

It varies from cross fit, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) pole fitness, rock climbing, hiking, bouldering, trail running, treadmill running, and weight lifting.

1377950_10151886346947964_1517032743_nWhat advice would you give to someone starting out in your sport?

Don’t be scared and just go for it! Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity to get started, because that could never happen. Just get out there, maybe sign up for a 5k fun run and see how that feels. Don’t let the bigger, stronger athletes intimidate you, because chances are, they’re more worried about their own finishing times, and not even paying attention to who you are or if you look silly.

What is your favorite pre-race and post-race food?

I always have oatmeal and a few oranges before a race. And LOTS of water. I’ve never tried any pre- workout powders and I’m highly sensitive to caffeine so I’ve found that just basic carbo loading is sufficient. My post race chow down is usually at the first All You Can Eat Sushi joint I can find. 

When not training and competing what do you do with your down time?

Working, spending time with friends or family, camping, hiking, and taking it easy!

10609507_10152612040937964_4961881867782872393_nWhat is your favorite quote to motivate you?

Sean Corvelles’ “When was the first time you did something for the last time” gets me going every time. 

If you could share some advice to the next generation of athletes, what would it be?

Don’t limit yourself, always try new activities, eat healthy, and never compare yourself to others.

What is/are the races you are most looking forward to this year?

Surf City Marathon in February, OCRWC in October, ALL the upcoming Tough Mudders, and Worlds Toughest Mudder 2015. 


Margaret Schlachter

About Margaret Schlachter

Margaret Schlachter is Founder of She has been part of the OCR Community since 2010. When not working on the next article she can be found running from race-to-race. She is Editor-in-Chief of She authored the book Obstacle Race Training.
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