The SRLA program was started in the early 1990s with the initial goal of challenging at-risk secondary students to experience the benefits of goal-setting, character development, adult mentoring and improved health by providing them with a truly life-changing experience: The training for and completion of The City of Los Angeles Marathon.
The response was a huge success. When the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Board of Education recognized the program as an effective and innovative tool in preventing kids from dropping out of school, they became a sponsor. Today, the program boasts a network of 300 teachers and more than 2200 students from more than 150 schools and community programs throughout Greater Los Angeles participating in the training.
On Sunday morning at 6 a.m., the hopeful runners gathered at Hansen Dam, shivering in the cool morning air. They huddled in circles with friends, armed with their iPods, mentally preparing for the 18-mile run.
Tension, excitement and a rush of adrenaline kicked in once the warm up exercises began.
"I’m nervous," said Valentina Victoria from Rosemont Middle School. "My heart feels like it’s racing, but I’m nervous in a good way."
Other runners echoed her thoughts.
"I’m very excited, because it’s getting closer to the marathon," said Daniel Chang, also from Rosemont. "This is our very last race before the marathon." He squirted orange Gatorade into his mouth in an attempt to fully hydrate his body before embarking on the three to four-hour-long race.
Ryan Assaf from Monte Vista Elementary School was more assured. There is no need to be nervous, he said. "We are ready for it. Some of us have already run the marathon before and our team has already run 15-miles all at once, two weeks ago."