By 6 p.m. the casual pace of early evening dog walks had been replaced by the high spirited strides of the San Diego Track Club on the shadow-lanced lawns of Balboa Park. But even as the runners began their pre-workout drills, 100 meters away a gaggle of children were engaged in their own exercises as part of 2nd Recess, the club’s youth program initiated and conducted by top local runners Marco Anzures and his fiancee Natasha LaBeaud.
“Today we’re doing gut busters,” said Marco, a former collegiate runner at UCLA (Class of 2010), as he spoke to a group of children seated on the grass. “Does anyone know what your core is?”
2010 Georgetown master’s grad Natasha had just returned from Des Moines, Iowa where she finished 15th at last weekend’s USATF National Championships at 10,000 meters. 2nd Recess was the perfect reintroduction to ideal Southern California weather after the steam bath in Iowa.
While the adults started their own 5 X 800 meter grass intervals with a 2:30 minute recovery between, Marco and Natasha began their own session with the kids, switching off between instructor and demonstrator as they led the group from one exercise to another. From the Superman pose, to planks, crunches, dead bug pose, and press ups, each exercise was separated with a 60-70 meter jog.
Along the periphery of the session stood a couple whose son, Trent, 6, was taking part.
“He’s been coming for three weeks now,” said Nicole Pearson of La Jolla. “And he loves it. It’s become our Tuesday night thing.“
“We looked at some kid’s running club programs,” added dad Bill, “but they were too aggressive, requiring too much of a commitment for such a young age.”
The Pearsons are members of the local Tri Club, and were looking for something to help Trent develop of a love of running, but something that wasn’t too competitive. After Googling ‘Kids Running’, they came across the 2nd Recess website. Then they e-mailed Natasha, who sent them follow up information. Though they have to drive down from La Jolla in rush hour traffic – no joy there — they’ve found even that inconvenience worth the effort.
“He’s seen us run races his whole life,” Bill continued, “so to him running is normal. But this program focuses on character building, good nutritional habits, everything rolled into one. Natasha also informs us about the local track meets, and that has given Trent an outlet for competition. He went to the meet two weeks ago and ran the 200 and did the long jump. Then last week at Mesa College he ran the 100, 400, and long jump. So he’s trying it all, and loves it.”
As his parents spoke, young Trent was as anxious as a fire fly in a fruit jar to get free from the core exercises to go run. But learning the protocols of a good exercise program and the sportsmanship that has always attended the sport are as integral to 2nd Recess as the running and exercises themselves.
“Natasha had the idea to do something like this,” said Marco after the session had ended. “She had the idea before we even met.
“We were living in Flagstaff and running for the McMillan Elite team. I had experience with Fit Kids of Arizona, a non-profit working with overweight kids in partnership with McMillan Elite, and I liked it. So when we were moving back to San Diego, we decided to start the program here.”
2nd Recess opened in San Diego in October 2011, and works in conjunction with the San Diego Track Club’s training schedule to make scheduling easier for family routines. When the SDTC meets at Balboa Stadium at City College, that’s where 2nd Recess goes; same for Balboa Park sessions.
Following the core exercises and cool down run, Natasha and Marco sat the kids down for a short question and answer session where they taught something about the history of the sport, tonight focusing on “What do you think an Olympic dream is?”. As we might expect from ones so young, the answers were a combination of cute and perceptive: ‘Run across the whole world’, ‘Race across America’, and “Win a gold medal”.
Next several youngsters were nominated for the Golden SneakerAward, given out at the end of the season to four kids nominated from each session who had shown patience, a positive attitude, and perseverance. Zoe, Ezra, and Olivia received the Golden Sneaker nominations last night.
Then as the session came to a close, two boxes of gear donated by Dr. Jon Cross at the Honolulu Marathon Association were handed out like it was Christmas morning itself.
“We heard about this at school,” said Heather Kinney of Carmel, who had a son Matthew, 10, and daughter Rosette, 7, in the program. “We don’t have AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization), so friends said we should check this out, and it’s been awesome. It’s a good introduction to the sport which is an equal opportunity sport. Some other sports if you don’t make the travel team, you’re nowhere. Here they keep it interesting. In fact, Matthew is the one who wanted to do it, and generally he’s the one we have to push to do anything.”
In February former mile world record holder and track legend Jim Ryun stopped by Balboa Stadium to talk to the kids. It had been 48 years since Ryun had been back to the track where he set the U.S. mile record and won the national championship. The kids may not have known who Ryun was — heck, even their parents may be too young to remember — but Mom and Dad are the real heroes the kids want to emulate anyway. And with Natasha and Marco leading the way, who knows how far one their 2nd Recess grads might run one day. But even if there aren’t any new Jim Ryuns in the pack, 2nd Recess will create more than its fair share of lifers, which has always been the goal of the program in the first place (and the evident need of the nation).
2nd Recess is open to kids ages 5 to 15, and last night’s was the fourth session in the summer season program. Each full season costs $40 and includes a water bottle and 2nd Recess tee shirt. If you have any questions feel free to email Coaches Marco Anzures and Natasha LaBeaud at firstname.lastname@example.org