Thousands of runners laced up and headed for the finish line Sunday morning for the 7th Annual SLO Marathon and half marathon. Participants came in from around the country to take on the challenging race course, but one local group was hard to miss.
"It was hard, it was really hard but you just have to push through it and it’s worth it," Marlin Sanchez, a Cadet in the Grizzly Youth Academy said. "There were more people than I expected but I liked that our colors were bright because I knew they were there and it felt really good running with them."
She and 55 of her fellow cadets dawned neon pink and yellow t-shirts, setting them brightly apart from racers around them.
"Grizzly Youth Academy is an at-risk program for high school students who are choosing to change their lives," Amanda Harrison, a teacher at Grizzly Academy and coach of the Running Club. "It’s a group that wanted to run this and they volunteer to train a couple times a week with us after school which is a long day for them."
The teens trained for 15 weeks in preparation for Sunday’s half marathon.
"It was actually too easy," Cadet John Miranda said. "We’ve been training for way harder than this. We train up mountains so it’s actually way easier than I thought it would be."
"I feel really tired but I feel like I accomplished something big because we’ve been training a lot for it so it just feels really good," Sanchez said.
Race SLO founder and marathon organizer Samantha Pruitt, along with GYA teachers like Harrison served both as trainers and cheerleaders for the cadets.
"Just seeing their faces at the finish line was just amazing, they were so excited and proud of themselves. One of the girls when she finished she gave me a huge hug and just started crying because she was so proud of herself," Harrison said.
It’s a sense of pride Harrison and the cadets say will be carried beyond the race course. "Stay dedicated remember why we came here. Cause this really helped us realize why we came here," Miranda said smiling.
Other race participants included an 84-year-old Grover Beach resident who finished the half marathon in just over two hours and a 15-year-old boy from SLO who finished the marathon in the top 10 times.