|"I'm inspired by the energy of my students," says McDermott.
Teacher Kimberly McDermott, 46, of Ladera Ranch is perhaps the Flo Jo of teaching running marathons.
She began the Students Run LA Program at Las Flores Middle School as something that she could do with her then 8th grade son.
“He recruited his friends and we ran after school and occasionally on the weekends to get in longer runs. I'm still at Las Flores Middle School and the ages of my students range from 12-16 with several students at Tesoro High School still participating in the program.”
Typically, they meet after school Monday through Thursday running anywhere from 3-1/2 to 6 miles. Races or longer mileage runs are on the weekends several times a month. This is an important program she says because there basically aren’t any offered without a fee.
“Middle Schools don't offer any types of after school programs any more without a fee. Students Run LA doesn’t charge the students to participate. We advisers take the kids and offer them an opportunity to challenge themselves, setting goals, learning about nutrition and training foods. They also interact with new kids that they might not otherwise meet,” she continues. “Although running is an individual sport, there’s a team feel to it as my runners tend to partner up with others who have similar paces motivating each other during races and then we all wait for each other at the finish line. After participating in this program, it seems that most of the kids have gone on to high school and participate on their Cross Country and Track & Field teams.”
It’s not just the kids who benefit either.
“I benefit from this program personally since it makes me get out there and run with the kids. It helps to keep me in some sort of shape. Additionally, I’m thrilled to see new student runners, siblings of past runners and my high school runners continue to come out pushing themselves a little bit more each year,” she adds. “It's providing this opportunity for the kids that keep me running.”
In addition to creating the program, she says has formed special relationships with the students, too.
“The best part of what I do is working with the kids, in the classroom and out on the streets. It is great to see them push themselves and find success when they complete a race,” she says. “Many of the kids are former classroom students so our relationship is taken to a new level when they run. After completing a race on the weekend, we all wear our T-shirts and medals to school on Monday proudly. It's awesome to see them around campus. We have our own little club.”
Of course, it isn’t always smooth sailing for McDermott.
“One challenge is continually motivating each other, as well as me. I can get lazy like anyone else about exercise, but I feel that if I'm not willing to put myself through something, then I can't expect a group of kids to either.”
When asked who she would like to meet most if she had the chance, she didn’t hesitate.
“Jim Fixx; as a kid, I remember my parents having his book, The Complete Book of Running and his log book where they would record their daily information. At the time, I didn’t pay too much attention to it, but I was aware of the fact that he was someone important in the running community,” she says.
A single mom with three teenage boys, two at Tesoro High School and one in college, she likes to read and play tennis when she can.
In the next 5 years, she says she hopes to become a school administrator.
“I am inspired by the energy of my students inside the classroom and out. They continually push me to try to be the best that I can. I also have a very strong family support system that is there for me when I need to be reminded that I'm doing alright,” she says.