Running club aims to foster sense of community

To help keep cross-country athletes — and others — in shape over the summer and to build a sense of community, Odessa High School cross-country Coach Cody Valenzuela has formed the Slow Poke Running Club.

The group was formed around the second week of June. Ten to 15 people turn up to run and train, mostly at Sherwood and Floyd Gwin parks, but sometimes San Jacinto. On a recent Wednesday, they were at Floyd Gwin.

Valenzuela said the idea formed before the summer when he was talking to his wife.

“I saw that there was an opportunity for all of our kids from each school, from Permian and OHS (or) if Monahans wanted to come in, just to try and build these runners,” he said.

“We even have former graduates that come in and want to run, which that’s what it’s all about. It’s about building our community,” Valenzuela added.

They usually run at 9:30 a.m. three days a week before the heat really sets in.

“… Right now, we’re doing three to four miles. By the end the summer, I want to them to be over 5 miles. With this, it’s just building a base for next year’s runners. We have one from Permian. I’m trying to get him to bring more guys,” Valenzuela said.

He added that the club is open to anyone, including walkers. Valenzuela said he keeps the runs inside the parks.

“I will pick places where we can keep an eye on each other and keep each other safe,” he said.

Valenzuela, who began running in middle school, through OHS and University of Texas Permian Basin, added that he would like to keep the club going all summer and into the school year.

Odalis Lujan, a junior from OHS, and George H.W. Bush New Tech Odessa sophomore Alejandro Tercero are enjoying the chance to keep their skills sharp.

Lujan said she’s been inviting friends and it helps the runners keep up on mileage up so they don’t have to worry about getting back into shape when the season starts. Tercero said there are times when motivation declines during the summer.

“There’s times when we feel just like not getting up, but we try our best to show up every day,” Tercero said.

He added that the club will help him because he didn’t start improving until the end of the season.

“… This way it can help me start off better than last year,” Tercero said.

The club also has given students a chance to meet new people and for the girls to run with the boys if the girls aren’t as fast, Lujan said.

There are, however, some girls who are as fast as the guys, Tercero said.

“We have encountered some,” he said.

Lujan noted that the club is for everybody.

“They don’t have to be fast. They can start off as walkers and they can improve further on,” she said.