SRLA students and leaders from San Fernando High School. The runners gathered at Dodger Stadium on Sunday, March 19, for the Los Angeles Marathon. (Photo Courtesy of Deo Jaravata)

After months of training and pushing through the pain, thousands of middle and high school students from schools across the greater Los Angeles area crossed the LA Marathon finish line. Among them were students from schools in the northeast San Fernando Valley.

Students from Pacoima Middle School and San Fernando High School joined 2,500 other registered runners from Students Run LA (SRLA) to run in the 26.2 marathon.

The 10 all-female students from Pacoima Middle School who were at the starting line were proud that they also crossed the finish line. Those students were Janelly, Karolina, Brihanna, Brissia, Bianca, Alison, Yamilet, Andrea, Ashley and Julyana.

That was no easy feat.

For those in the SRLA program, finishing the race isn’t the only focus. They’re expected to maintain a 16-minute per mile pace for the entire marathon; otherwise, they get pulled out. Two of the runners came close to falling behind that pace.

“I saw two of my girls and … you could see it, they were hurting,” said Rachel Rodriguez, a teacher and SRLA leader at Pacoima Middle who also ran in the Marathon. “I shouted at them, ‘You’re almost there, you’ve gone this far. Just keep pushing, just keep going.’” Rodriguez said she did everything she could to distract her runners from the pain by trying to make them laugh, including singing out loud “Let It Go” from the Disney movie “Frozen.” It managed to do the trick, and both girls crossed the finish line. One of those students later told Rodriguez she cried nine times during the race.

Rodriguez said the atmosphere of the race was much livelier than last year. There were more people in the crowds cheering on the runners, and more music along the way that kept them pumped up.

The students and coaches in the SRLA program at Pacoima Middle School. They assembled at Dodger Stadium for the 38th LA Marathon. (Photo Courtesy of Rachel Rodriguez)

She loved seeing the sights while running through Chinatown and hearing Las Colibri, the female mariachi band as they ran past LA City Hall and was encouraged by the signs held by spectators cheering on SRLA runners from so many schools.

On the other hand, it wasn’t pleasant to see so many homeless tents on the sidewalks that lined the course, and she said she could smell urine as she ran past.

All but one of Rodriguez’s runners are in eighth grade, meaning next year’s team will certainly be almost entirely new. She’s already starting to drum up more interest in her class by showing off her medal and touting the accomplishments of the SRLA students.

“There are those kids who say, ‘I could never do that,’ and I tell them. No, it’s a choice. They say, ‘I can’t run a mile,’ and I say these girls couldn’t [either] and yet they did 26 miles but they didn’t make any excuses. They weren’t going to let anything stop them.”

“We got them all through with tears and laughter [on their faces]. It was a great season,” Rodriguez said. “These girls are just so impressive. I’m just so proud of them.”

San Fernando High School Students 

Students from San Fernando High School also participated in the Marathon. All 10 students who were enrolled in the SRLA after school program finished the race. 

Those students are Nathan Campos, Laura Diaz, Melody Espinoza, Samira Garcia, Alfredo Guerra, Edgardo Marroquin, Susana Mier, Jason Salazar, Alyssa Sanchez and Kimberly Vallejo.

Campos — a 17-year-old senior on both the cross country and track and field team — first joined SRLA in 2020 because of his brother’s example. His older sibling is a runner and Campos thought it would be a great way to bond with him. Since then, he also got his mom to start running too.

Campos said he trained harder and was more confident than in previous years. He completed the race with a time of 4:18, beating his previous time of 5:16.

“This time I was better mentally prepared, well rested and I had something to eat before I left, so I had some energy,” Campos said. “I was more prepared than I was when I first ran three years ago.”

The hardest part of the race for him was the last mile because he could see the finish line in the distance, but it still felt so far away. Nonetheless, he kept pushing all the way to the end as his family cheered him on.

Campos said that while he would love to continue to participate in the upcoming Marathons, high school graduation and entering college are on the horizon, so he doesn’t feel he’ll have the time to focus on training. But, his mom is now looking toward running in next year’s race.

Knowing that he could “push himself,” the growth and benefit he received from training and finishing the marathon will carry him into his next chapter. “When I first started [SRLA], I had some sense of confidence, but after [participating] I was even more open to try new things. I like challenging myself, both physically and mentally.”

SRLA runners will have one more race this season: the Spring into Summer 5K on May 7 in Boyle Heights. Registration is open to the public. For more information or to sign up, go to