Marathon training helps teens stay on
By Michelle Hatfield
dropping out of high school nearly two
years ago, 18-year-old Daniel Allen is back in
classes and shaping up before joining the
With a dad in prison and a mom addicted to
drugs, Kenneth Wooden, 18, has discovered the
importance of adult role models and support
networks with friends.
Stanislaus County teens are reaping the
benefits of training for Teens Run Modesto, a
full 26.2-mile marathon for county
Coordinators of Teens Run Modesto, a marathon
for students and at-risk students, hope the
program will help teens make the right decisions
and get fit, seen during a night workout at
Modesto Junior College
. Jan. 12, 2009.
Workouts began in the fall and the Modesto
Marathon is set for March 21. About 40 teenagers
are participating in the event, which is in its
first year. "I wanted to exercise, lose
weight," said Wooden, a senior enrolled in Beyer
High School's AdvancePath Academy for at-risk
students. "I'm also learning about commitment.
You go, you run and you have to be committed to
running. ... I want to finish and have some type
of accomplishment." Participants and educators
say Wooden's description of what he's getting
from the experience matches their objectives:
teach teenagers how to set goals, pursue them,
exercise, stay away from distractions, gain
self- confidence and graduate.
Six schools have signed up students, with
teachers organizing and leading running
target at-risk students, but others have
joined. Each week, students add a mile to their
regime, running at
East La Loma Park and Modesto Junior
College's track, among other areas.
Lured by shoes, PE credit For many students,
the lure was free running shoes, PE class credit
and a way to lose weight, but they've stayed for
"It gives me something to look forward to," said
Allen, a senior at Elliott Continuation
High School. "Training takes 26 weeks.
It's going to take a long time. There are some
cool teachers, people you can look up to, who
encourage you. Not just teens, even as adults,
everybody needs encouragement to get through
Members of the Modesto ShadowChase Running Club
are organizing the program.
"It's good being around other people that you
know actually care about you," Wooden said.
The adults mentor students as well as collect
donations for training shirts, registration into
races, and running shoes for the young runners -
at a cost of about $150 each. Participants had
their feet measured for shoes tailored to their
running style, said Mike Araiza, program
"Something as simple as running can change a
person's attitude about themselves," he said.
Juvenile Court Judge Linda McFadden originally
pushed for Teens Run Modesto after encountering
Los Angeles while competing in the
Los Angeles Marathon. She said running is
a rela- tively cheap sport and en- courages
weight loss and goal setting.
Students Run LA started 21 years ago. This year,
3,000 students will participate, most of them
attending schools in the
Los Angeles Unified School District.
target at-risk students who are not
Started with LA race
Last year, 99 percent of the students finished
the LA Marathon, 98 percent graduated high
school and 95 percent went on to some type of
The marathon approach is successful for several
reasons, including introducing teens to
benchmarks, said Eric Spears, co-founder of
Students Run LA and prin- cipal of the
Secondary Community Day School at LA
"With running, the accomplishment is finishing.
And we're showing them that doing something is
important, that short-term goals lead to
long-term goals," he said. "You'll keep getting
better. We tell them it's the same with school -
if you do your homework, you'll get better and
do better in class.
"If you do better in class, you'll get better
grades, which betters your chances of getting a
Teachers seeing results
Teachers already have noticed students absorbing
"These kids aren't used to setting goals, like
'this is my goal - how do I do it?' This event
is all about delayed gratification," said Ed
Jackson, teacher at Beyer's AdvancePath and lead
teacher for Beyer's youth runners. "It helps
when you're telling students to work hard for
four years to graduate high school. It's one
step at a time."
For Wooden - who has tallied a dozen miles so
far - the Teens Run
Modesto ex- perience has given him a
chance to reach out.
"It's allowed me to impact others. I see some
kids having trouble running, like they'll run a
little, then walk some. I'll stay back with
other runners and talk with them, encourage them
to keep going," he said. "You can encourage and
help someone with some of their problems."