This post first ran in YA and kids Books Central.
One of the most meaningful parts of being an author is the connections you make. I love connecting with young readers. They’re the reason why I write. I love meeting educators, parents and librarians. I appreciate the essential role they play in getting books into young people’s hands and hearts. And sometimes, like a few months before the Miles Lewis series debuted, I make a surprise connection that makes me marvel at what books can do.
Last December, I was scrolling through my emails and stopped when I saw a familiar name. Was I seeing right? I had an email from . . . Miles Lewis? I eagerly opened the note and thought how cool that the person writing me had the same name as a character I created. But the similarities didn’t end there. Miles Lewis told me that he competed for Puerto Rico at the world championship level in Track & Field. A friend named Kelly (so many connections) had told him about my book, Miles Lewis: Track Star. He wanted me to know that there was a Miles Lewis running in the real world. I couldn’t believe it: He was a real life track star!
Miles and I have since become friends. I cheered for him while watching him race on TV. I’d love to see one of his competitions in person one day. In the meantime, I thought it would be fun for you to meet my buddy Miles – and discover more things he has in common with my chapter book character. Check out his profile on World Athletics: https://worldathletics.org/athletes/puerto-rico/miles-lewis-14366207. Cool, right! Here Miles, a champion in track and life, talks about his passion for running, his inspiration and offers advice for young people like you:
I love that you and my character share a name. So cool that you’re a real life track star. What’s your earliest memory of running?
So cool to me. Thanks Kelly! My first memory of running fast goes as far back as 2nd grade for me. After a class activity involving short sprints, I will always remember my teacher, Mrs. Smith commenting on my speed.
How did you get interested in track?
I joined the middle school track team in my 8th grade year after being challenged to a race by classmates. I really enjoyed middle school track but wouldn’t find a love for running until my junior year of high school.
In Miles Lewis: Track Star, he’s inspired by his grandma and parents to work hard. Who inspires you?
My mom has always been my biggest inspiration. I’ve also been fortunate enough to be surrounded by some magical human beings who’ve inspired me to go beyond what I thought my limitations may have been. Thank you, Brian, Pat, Kelly, and Lisa.
What has your track journey been like? Talk about the high and low moments.
Running at the professional level has been a phenomenal experience. As an athlete training in NY without access to a track or indoor facilities through most of the year, I have created a speed program catered to athletes who train in cold weather locations with minimal access to training resources. To have taken this program to the professional and world level has been a surreal experience. It can still be difficult and even frustrating at times, as I do not have support at the professional level that the average pro affiliated with a team would expect. Nonetheless, I have friends, family, and the community behind me, so I feel unstoppable regardless of what I do or do not have access to.
What does it take to persevere on the track and in life?
Unending determination and good friends. You get back up every time you fall and believe with your entire being that your story will either impact your own life or that of another for the better. Who you surround yourself with is equally if not more important.
How do you train for your competitions?
My training revolves around a healthy diet, rest, and high intensity repetitions in the gym and during my runs. I am basically a pescatarian during the season and I do a lot of uphill sprinting throughout the year.
In Miles Lewis: Track Star, Miles not only trains, he also uses a mantra and visualization to help him do his best. Do you have special techniques to get you in the zone?
Miles and I have some things in common. If I’m fortunate enough to have ample time to prepare for an event, I begin visualizing the race I want to run 2 weeks to a month before competing. The moment I feel my nerves beginning to get the best of me before getting to the line on race day I remind myself that there is nothing to fear here. “I have no fear” is the last thing I say to myself before every race.
How does it feel when you run?
What does winning mean to you?
The time and preparation that goes into just 6 or 10 seconds of running at any given time is unbelievable. So, to walk away with a gold or 1st place finish at this level of competition gives me a great sense of accomplishment. I also see the time and effort put into preparing for these races as tests of determination and wins in themselves as well.
What’s your favorite track memory?
I compete for Team Puerto Rico. My family has roots in Aguadilla. Last year I broke the Puerto Rican 60-meter dash national record in the last round of 3 races on the last day of the qualification window for the 2022 World Indoor Championships in Belgrade, Serbia. Breaking that record, qualifying for the world championships, and doing it in front of family and friends was the experience of a lifetime.
Who’s your track hero?
Although I write my own training program, my track heroes are the coaches and mentors in my community that I can turn to at any time. Thank you, Brian, Pat, Coach Zanot, Zakia and the like.
What advice would you pass on to young readers and runners?
Don’t rush your dreams or goals. I didn’t run a world championship level event until after my 30th birthday. Along the way, be patient, be kind and do your best to treat yourself just as you would your very best friend. And to the runners, keep at it like Miles!
Kelly Starling Lyons is the award-winning author of the Jada Jones and Miles Lewis chapter book series, Ty’s Travels easy reader series and numerous picture books. Her mission is to center Black heroes, celebrate family, friendship and heritage and show all kids the stories they hold inside. Learn more about Kelly and her books at www.kellystarlinglyons.com.
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