By Tyler BIDDLE
The Verdugo Mountains 10K is back again this Sunday and the two-time champion Lilianna Hernandez is bringing a new group of runners with her this year.
The Griffith Park Bobcats, a local running club for kids, will make their first appearance at the 10K this year and Hernandez has been preparing them for the challenge.
The running club is the product of Hernandez and her longtime mentor and friend Gretchen Corrales, who tragically past away last November. Their first race was held in March and raised over $200 for the Glendale Adventist Medical Center.
The Bobcats use running to improve the lives of local kids. Hernandez explained that even if running itself isn’t their passion, it can benefit them in other areas.
“Running helps kids to do a lot of things,” she said. The endurance training helps many of her kids compete in other sports, like soccer and basketball. “I would love to see all the kids in Glendale be exposed to this.”
Even some of the parents go on runs with their sons and daughters in the park.
Hernandez met Corrales for the first time at a track meet at Glendale College when Hernandez was 20 years old. Corrales recognized her talent and recruited her to compete at Cal State L.A.
“She became a life mentor,” said Hernandez. “She would always be willing to help me out.” Corrales was her coach for two years while she was at Cal State L.A. After she graduated, their friendship only got stronger and they began working together to coach elementary school kids in the community to run.
The club flourished for years before they started making real efforts to make it official. In the months leading up to her untimely death, Corrales worked to create T-shirts, logos, and a name for their running club. She had originally suggested the name Bobcats.
“Some of the parents wanted ‘The Griffith Park Rats,’” Hernandez said with a laugh. Bobcats is the name she stuck with, however, in memory of her friend.
“I see myself like her,” Hernandez said. “I want to make an impact on kids the way she impacted me.”
Hernandez herself plans to continue competing. On top of going for first place again at the 10K this Sunday, she plans to take the upcoming summer to train hard for the Boston Marathon next year.
Anyone wanting to get their kids involved can look up the Griffith Park Bobcats on Facebook where times and locations for hiking and running are planned. Anyone can show up and participate. The Verdugo Mountains 10k will be this Sunday morning at 8 a.m. in Brand Park. Registration is online at www.runtheverdugos.com.