Marathon Kids Jackie and Daisy don’t have a lot of safe spaces for outdoor play in their Los Angeles neighborhood.
The nearby parks have been taken over by gang activity, which means that their school playground has become their sanctuary.
“This is the only place I get a chance to run freely because my parents don’t take me to the park, and they don’t want me to go alone either,” said Daisy.
When Jackie and Daisy were in first grade, they enjoyed running, but didn’t have a run club at their school to join. When their running-obsessed teacher, Ms. Lizbeth Tello, noticed this program gap, she launched the Marathon Kids program. Soon, Jackie and Daisy were on their way to completing their first, second, third, and fourth marathons (and more!).
As fourth graders, the girls were described as shy and quiet, never liking to be the center of attention. Over the last three seasons, Jackie and Daisy have become more outgoing, building their friendships and expanding their friend groups through running.
“Run club has helped me come out of my shell,” said Jackie.
When I came to this school, I was struggling academically. Running has helped me release this stress,” said Daisy.
For the past few years, Coach Tello has celebrated her most dedicated run club members by brining them to a special race in Los Angeles called the Chinatown Firecracker 10k Run.
Because of generous donors through a GoFundMe campaign, Coach Tello has been able to cover the costs of eight race bibs. This year, she’s already raised enough to bring 25 of her runners to the February 10k, including Jackie and Daisy.
As they’ve built up their confidence over the last three seasons, the girls’ competitive sides have come out too. While Daisy felt strong going into her first Firecracker run, she joked that her parents didn’t feel as confident.
“My parents were proud of me, but at first they weren’t sure if I was going to be able to make it.”
Not only did she make it through the 6.2 mile race, she won first place in her age group. Jackie and her teammate triumphantly cross the finish line together.
Coach Tello has proudly watched Daisy push herself, and has even been the one on her tail trying to catch up!
“During last year’s Firecracker Run, I got emotional and started crying because I was so proud of Daisy. I had a terrible side ache throughout the run and wanted to stop so badly, but Daisy was a few steps in front of me and kept motivating me to keep going and finish the 10k.
As her coach, I’m supposed to be the one pushing her, but she was my inspiration! I kept thinking, I have to finish, I have to finish for her!” said Coach Tello.
Before the Firecracker Run, Jackie and Daisy had never participated in an official race before, but both walked away with participation and age group medals, as well as a fiery determination to do even better this year.
Today, they still don’t like being the center of attention, but they love their new circle of friends and the running sanctuary that Coach Tello has given them through Marathon Kids.