By Mary O’KEEFE
Running has always been a popular way to stay healthy. There are industries built around the runner. When in years past it was enough to have a simple pair of tennis shoes, a pair of shorts and a T-shirt, now the shoes and clothing are designed by doctors and engineers and can actually help regulate the body’s temperature.
Despite the high tech apparel, at the foundation of every runner is the basic love of the sport, training and the need to cross that finish line, either imaginary or during a race. The one thing that can stop a runner in his or her tracks is an injury.
Rosemont Middle School teacher Terry Parker has coached middle school teens to run the Los Angeles Marathon for many years through Students Run LA and Rosemont PWR (Power Walking and Running).
Parker has ran 11 marathons and has coached hundreds of kids, many of them not avid runners, to cross the finish line.
“We have had injuries but not many,” he said.
Parker is a big believer in taking it slow and stretching.
“We take it very easy,” Parker said of his coaching. “In a marathon, it is not about seeing how fast you are but that you finish.”
Training for competition is different than for a marathon, Parker added.
“In competition, you push and injuries occur,” he said.
He tells the kids to run, jog and walk the 26.2 miles of the marathon. This allows the body to rehabilitate and prevents injuries.
Parker starts his kids off running a mile and in a short time they are running three to six miles in the neighborhoods around Rosemont. He trains them in the proper form from running up hills to running down.
“We don’t even talk about the distance when we start [training],” Parker said. “We gradually get them [to run] further.”
After school, they are running up to six miles and on the weekends, they increase to 18 miles.
He also makes certain his runners stretch.
“We used to do a lot of stretching at the beginning,” he said. “But the trend now is to stretch [only] at the end. I still believe you should stretch a little at the beginning, then during your run stop and stretch, then stretch after.”
Remember marathon training or long distance is different than competitive running. There are studies that have found stretching doesn’t help. But in Parker’s experience it helps prepare the runner for that long 26.2 mile run. And over the years all but one Rosemont runner has crossed the marathon finish line, and that teen stopped because of a previously unknown bronchial issue.
For now, Parker has hung up his running shoes. He injured his foot while playing a game of Pickle Ball, a racket sport that is played on a badminton size court with wooden paddles and a wiffle ball.
The Rosemont PWR Club was not held this year but Parker would like it to continue.
“I am nearly 70 years old. [Coaching] takes a lot of effort and needs someone younger,” he said.
However if no one steps up, or runs, to the challenge, Parker said he will continue.
“I can’t run the [marathon] anymore, but I can walk it,” he said.