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Teens train to compete at Modesto Marathon

Mike Araiza and Heidi Ryan will be among a small army of volunteers toeing the line on March 29 as they cheer on close to 250 teen runners at the Sixth Annual Modesto Marathon.

Twenty-six weeks, six months, countless hours covering an unheard of amount of miles will all come to a head as the Teens Run Modesto participants step to the race course and take on the distances they have trained for.

Whether it’s the coveted 26.2 full marathon distance or the 13.1 half marathon Araiza, Ryan and close to 50 mentors representing 14 Modesto area schools have provided the students with the tools and training they need to succeed.

“We developed a longer than usual marathon training schedule based on what we felt would be a manageable schedule for a student who has not competed in sports and is living a sedentary lifestyle,” Araiza shared. “We build up miles very slowly, starting with walking 25 minutes the first week to running a 22 mile long run the month prior to the marathon.”

There are varying reports and studies on when and if a teenage mind or body should take on the mentally and physically challenging distance of a full marathon. Both Araiza and Ryan acknowledge the arguments, however, they both feel the environment of the Modesto Marathon and its seven-hour cutoff time is ideal for a young marathoner.

“A student can run-walk a 16 minute pace and still finish under the seven-hour time limit,” Araiza stated. “As junior high students, because of the emotional and mental immaturity, we allow them to choose along with their lead mentor. I fully believe any student who faithfully follows our training program could complete the marathon.”

The training program used by TRM includes three after school practices and one Saturday long run over the course of the 26 weeks.

The TRM Program was established in 2010 by Shadow Chase Running Club, in conjunction with the Modesto Marathon. Members of the running club had become inspired by the running program founded in the late 1990s, Students Run LA (in conjunction with the LA Marathon), targeting at-risk youth.

According to Araiza, studies showed SRLA students experienced a significant increase in academic performance, confidence levels and achieving goals.

“This is life changing for them,” Ryan said of the student runners. “Setting goals and slowly working toward them. We are proud to teach this to students at such an early age.”

“The mentors are the heart and soul of the whole program,” Araiza stated of the program support. “They ferry students to and from practices and at times are surrogate parents to their students. I believe this adult/student connection is one of the most valuable services out mentors provide.

“A big part of our program is teaching students almost anything is possible if you believe in yourself and work for it,” he shared.

The Modesto Marathon will be hosted on March 29 in downtown Modesto with an anticipated 3,500 participants. Full and half marathons begin at 7 a.m. The family friendly 5k race begins 7:20 a.m.