Modesto Marathon vehicle for youth program, all ages

jcortez@modbee.comMarch 20, 2013 

Back in 1982, just on the heels of the running craze of the 1970s, Jenny Kenoyer took up running.

A 47-year-old registered nurse at Scenic General Hospital, she would run the four miles home each night after work.

“In my prime, when I was running consistently, I could do 8- or 9-minute miles,” says Kenoyer, who at 77 is the oldest registered runner for Sunday’s Modesto Marathon (competing in the 5-kilometer run).

Eventually, she gave up running in favor of walking — her second husband wasn’t a runner and she decided walking was something they could do together to stay in shape.

But recently, she got the itch again to stretch her legs a little.

“I was out walking and I just decided to try running for a mile … just jogging,” said Kenoyer. “It felt pretty good, so I just decided to keep going. Everyday now, I try to get out and do two to three miles.”

Of course, Kenoyer isn’t the only senior runner.

Barbara Elia, 68, is the oldest registered runner for the full marathon.

“I guess I don’t want to give in to getting old,” says Elia, who will be running her 101st marathon. “I just want other people to know they can do this.”

But while Kenoyer and Elia are making the point that the Modesto Marathon isn’t just for the young … it actually is.

You see, the Modesto Marathon was created as a vehicle for Teens Run Modesto, a youth running program modeled after the highly successful Students Run LA program.

Created in 1987, SRLA was founded by a Los Angeles continuation high school teacher Harry Shabazian searching for a way to keep his students out of trouble.

“This program is about learning how to set and achieve goals,” said Virginia Gibbs, Development Director of SRLA. “Hard work, discipline and persistence leads to success, whether it’s in the marathon or school or in life. That’s really what they’re learning.”

Last year, 2,856 SRLA students and coaches ran in the Los Angeles Marathon. Of those, 667 were seniors in high school. Ninety-nine percent of them graduated high school and more than 95percent had plans for post-secondary education.

Sunday, some 230 runners and coaches will take part in the Modesto Marathon. And Prescott Junior High will send more nearly 49 runners — 14 for the marathon and 35 for the half — the most of any school in the area.

cq Eryn Pingree, a pre-algebra teacher at Prescott, has taken over as the head mentor from fellow Prescott teacher and ultra-distance runner cq Jon Olsen. She sees the benefits of the program first-hand.

“The program keeps them motivated and proves hard work pays off,” says Pingree, who was a part-time, recreational runner before getting involved with TRM. “They see what its like to be successful.

“I know it’s changed my whole lifestyle. I spend four days a week with those kids. When it’s over … we’re all going to be lost. We won’t be waking up early to go to the park.”

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