SRLA students at the Rose Bowl Stadium Sept. 24 as they get ready to participate in Bimbo Global Race 5K, their first big event of the school year. (Photo Courtesy of Cassidy Smith)

Around 3,000 middle and high school students in the Students Run Los Angeles (SRLA) program are continuing to train and practice for the big tentpole event of the school year, the LA Marathon, after finishing their first big event this past Sunday.

The Bimbo Global Race 5K, held at the Rose Bowl Stadium, had thousands of runners participating, including SRLA students from schools including San Fernando High, Maclay Middle, Kennedy High and Nobel Middle School. SRLA is a nonprofit program founded in 1989 that provides free youth mentoring and marathon training for students in seventh grade and up.

Among them were 11 students from Pacoima Middle School: Jasmine Acosta, Keyla Alfaro, Madison Amaya, Valeria Castellanos, Abbigail Gonzales, Sofia Hernandez, Wendy Martinez, Peter Puente, Emily Rodriguez, Alyson Vazquez and Julyana Villalobos.

These students have been practicing their running for about three weeks now, and they’re continuing to train for the Marathon in March.

“I feel that [future events] are going to be more challenging … like the Marathon and the half marathon is going to be harder, but we can still do it with our friends next to us,” said 12-year-old Puente.

The seventh grader, currently the only boy on the team, joined SRLA after hearing about his sister’s experience in the program and thought it would be a good way to lose weight and earn some medals. Puente said the Bimbo Global Race was difficult because it was the first time he ran such a long distance, but he was helped by another teammate who ran and talked with him the whole way.

Though he does feel accomplished for finishing the event, Puente still feels nervous about the Marathon in six months. But now he knows what to expect and feels more comfortable when it comes to the smaller events.

The Students Run LA team at Pacoima Middle School, in Pacoima on Sept. 27. Photo by Semantha Raquel Norris (SFVS/el Sol)
Rachel Rodriguez, one of the Students Run LA team leaders, in front of her classroom at Pacoima Middle School, in Pacoima on Sept. 27. Photo by Semantha Raquel Norris (SFVS/el Sol)
An SRLA leader running in the Bimbo Global Race 5K at the Rose Bowl Stadium, with dozens of students in the program trailing behind her. (Photo Courtesy of Cassidy Smith)
Keyla Alfaro, member of the Students Run LA team at Pacoima Middle School, in Pacoima on Sept. 27. Photo by Semantha Raquel Norris (SFVS/el Sol)
Thousands of students in the SRLA program gathered at the Rose Bowl Stadium as they wait to run in the Bimbo Global Race 5K. (Photo Courtesy of Cassidy Smith)

“They’re going to be the same 5K runs, just a little bit harder,” Puente said. “The next one is going to be at La Puente … and that’s going to be hard since we’re running uphill.”

Despite the challenges, and being the only boy on the team, Puente enjoys coming to practice and getting ready for each race.

“I’m hoping that I could just pass it [the Marathon] and make it in three or four hours.”

Another seventh grader new to the program is 12-year-old Alfaro. She joined the program because she enjoys running, but also after learning about it from her brother, who used to be in SRLA and found it was a good way to relieve stress and stay active.

Alfaro was initially nervous about her first event, having concerns about the large number of people participating and worrying about how well she would perform, but she found that it wasn’t as hard as she thought it would be and felt proud of herself for being able to keep up with other runners. With her first event under her belt, she feels more confident going into future events.

“I’ll probably not be as nervous,” Alfaro said. “I’ll have a brighter mindset and I would probably just be more relaxed. … Right now, I’m not nervous at all [about the Marathon]. I’m kind of excited for it.”

Alfaro said she enjoys going to practice and seeing how much she is able to improve. Right now, she’s working towards building up her stamina and trying not to overexert herself when she runs or jogs.

She added that her coaches have been helping to keep a good mindset “because usually I would not have a very positive mindset, but they told me it’s better to have a good mindset and you will be able to achieve more.”

One of the SRLA school leaders at Pacoima Middle, Rachel Rodriguez, expressed absolute confidence in this group of students completing the big 26.2-mile run.

“This is the first group where no kids have wavered in their determination,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve never experienced that before in my 17 years doing this program that I honestly can say everyone who ran that race on Sunday will probably be at the finish line of the LA Marathon.

“In terms of their excitement [for the next event], I believe it’s palpable, especially because of the size of that [Sunday] event and getting their first medal,” Rodriguez continued. “When they get those medals, there’s so much pride in that.”

The next scheduled SRLA event is the Strength 10K & 5K on Oct. 22 in La Puente. To learn more about upcoming SRLA events, go to