M. Terry / SFVS

SFHS math instructor Deo Jaravata and the students participating in the 2020 Los Angeles Marathon.

At press time, Los Angeles City officials had declared a health state of emergency after six new cases of coronavirus were discovered in the county. When contacted, Marathon officials said Sunday’s race would go on as scheduled.

Deo Jaravata is now in his 21st year teaching math at San Fernando High School. He has also shepherded numerous students here into training for and running in the Los Angeles Marathon.

But there’s a first for Jaravata among this year’s edition of runners — he is coaching three sets of siblings from three different familes: Edgar Soto and his sister Araceli, sisters Cynthia and Michelle Guardado, and brothers Samuel and Nathan Campos, and their sister Abigail Campos.

Meaning nearly half of the SFHS runners who will run in the event Sunday, March 8, are in some way related.

“Usually I have one set, maybe two,” Jaravata said. “I have a total of 15 kids going this year, and, actually, that’s a smaller number; we usually have 18-19. But they also seem more together — maybe because of the siblings.”

Maybe.

Of the seven, only Abigail and Nathan are running it for the first time. But all seven agree that running in the marathon — or even just preparing for it — has taught them something about themselves: that many things they previously considered as limitations, be it running, school work or life in general, can be surpassed if they are willing to work for it, work collectively, and believe in themselves.

A Test of Character

Edgar Soto remembers the pain. Very well.

He was running in the Los Angeles Marathon last year when he felt a pain in his right knee. He didn’t remember hurting it, either during his preparation for the run or his warmup before the race.

But it was there now. And it was only the third mile.

“My right kneecap started giving out on me,” said Soto, 18, a senior. “I was trying to look down at it, but every time I did I’d mis-position myself and it would hurt.”

But Soto continued on and finished his marathon run in 4:20. There is still some pain there today, he said. But he’s going to run the marathon again this Sunday, March 8.

“It’s not discouraging me,” he said.

This will be the third race for Araceli, 16, a junior. She said she got into distance running because of her brother’s efforts and determination.

“I just felt like I wanted to try it,” Araceli said. And she, too, has learned how to continue through injury. “Last year I hurt my tailbone. It was pretty painful the first three miles. So I’m going to try and stay away from any activities [where she might get hurt] before the race.”

The Guardado sisters come from a family of seven. An older sister, Nancy, who ran in two marathons while a student at San Fernando High, first convinced Cynthia to try it.

“I remember the first time she did it — I was in the seventh grade,” said Cynthia, 18, a senior. “I then wanted to do it too, but I was also in dance and I couldn’t do both. So I waited until my ninth grade year. That was 2017.”

This will be Cynthia’s third marathon. She doesn’t run it that fast; last year she completed the course in 6:40.  “Mentally I felt I was prepared. But physically I was only okay. This year I’m hoping I’m a little faster,” she said.

It will help to have Michelle alongside her again, at least for parts of the race like last year. As Nancy interested Cynthia in running, so did Cynthia with her younger sister. But Michelle, 16, a junior, has also gotten into running cross-country for San Fernando High.

In some ways “cross-county is harder, because usually there are hills,” Michelle said. That’s harder for me; you have to run fast, and there are other, fast runners. The marathon was just so tiring; at first I just wanted to go home. But I also felt I accomplished something; it was my first time doing something really big. I actually enjoyed it — that’s why I’m doing it again this year.

“I want to do it in six hours flat, hopefully. And I hope to do it non-stop. I’ll try to push my sister to do it in six hours flat.”

Michelle added the girls have convinced one of their two brothers to try the marathon this year. “I guess you could say the marathon literally runs in our family.”

The Campos Trio

Samuel Campos, 18, a senior, is running in his second marathon. And this year he feels he’ll be smarter about the race.

“From the beginning of the marathon last year I was super excited and super nervous,” he said. “During the middle, it just felt like another run. But near the end, the last 4-5 miles felt like hell; I wasn’t ready for that.”

Still he did complete the course in 5:05. “Finishing was like the best feeling. I was so happy it was over, then getting the medal…it was just fun.”

This year he will have Abigail and Nathan running as well. The younger Campos siblings said they’ve been inspired by their brother.

“My brother Samuel is a great example,” said Abigail, 16, a junior. “He’s motivated me; he’s a good leader and I just wanted to follow along and do something with him.”

“As a ninth grader, I want to do something big. And this is really a good way to start high school,” said Nathan, 14, who is also running cross-country and track at San Fernando High.

Both Abigail and Nathan admit to being running neophytes.

“Oh my gosh, at first I wasn’t used to the running because I really didn’t do sports,” Abigail said. “My only activities were in PE and that was in school. But during the training, everyone was very comforting and motivating. They kept telling me, ‘you can do it, you just have to train for it.’

“But it’s [also] up to you to put the effort into [the training]. You’re not gonna run one day, then do the marathon the next day.”

Adds Nathan, “This is my first year running; I did very little before high school. So I’ve had to get used to it a lot. I’ve gotten used to it more and more, and the training feels easier, but it’s still long.”

Race Day

Jaravata, who has completed 483 marathons himself “in all 50 states and seven continents,” has been training this current group  at San Fernando since September. They are supported in part by Students Run LA, a nonprofit organization based in Tarzana that — according to its website —  supports more than 3,200 underserved middle and high school students at 185 public schools —including Northeast Valley schools Chavez, Kennedy, Panorama, and Sylmar Biotec Academy — and community programs throughout the Valley and across Los Angeles to train for and complete the entire 26.2 mile marathon.

For the 2019-20 season, the demographic breakdown of SRLA students served include: 86% Latinx, 5% Caucasian, 4% Asian, 2% African American, 1% Native American / Pacific Islander, and 2% Other.

On Sunday, officials for the 35th Los Angeles Marathon Presented by Oasics are anticipating an estimated 27,000 athletes — ranging in age from as young as 16 (on race day) to 80 and beyond —  from all 50 states and more than 78 countries for the sold-out event on Sunday, which will start at Dodger Stadium in downtown Los Angeles and conclude at the intersection of Ocean Avenue and California Avenue in Santa Monica.

To receive a commemorative medal, runners must finish the course in no less than 6 hours, 30 minutes.

The event will begin with wheelchair racers at 6:30 a.m., followed by handcycles, the elite women’s field, and the elite men’s entrants and remaining runners.

There is a chance of rain on Sunday, but the expected cooler temperatures — predicted to be in the 60s — would benefit the runners more than a hot day.

But the best benefit of all comes following the race, according to Abigail Campos.

“We are going out to eat afterward, and I can have all the sweets I want,” she said.

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