They're ready for the 26.2-mile marathon

It was a tough lesson to swallow, but one that definitely has stuck — long-distance running and junk food do not mix.

“You have to watch what you eat,” Tiffany Duarte, 14, said. “If you eat the wrong thing, you can definitely feel it while you run. I ate hot Cheetos before a nine-mile run and then I felt like my throat was all hot. I felt sick.”

The eighth-grader is one of a dozen Rosemont Middle School students and staff members who will test their stomachs — and their legs — Sunday by running 26.2 miles from Dodger Stadium to Santa Monica as part of the Los Angeles Marathon.

The group will participate in a 2,800-student contingent that has trained under the supervision of Students Run L.A. (SRLA), a nonprofit that seeks to instill character and discipline through long-distance running.

The Rosemont squad is led by secretary Odette Hairapetian, an experienced a marathon runner, and social science teacher Stephanie Satoorian, a marathon novice. Rosemont has participated with SRLA in the L.A. Marathon for about a decade, one year sending more than two dozen runners, Hairapetian said.

This year, the inaugural information meeting in September drew about 40 students, Satoorian said. The runners met Mondays, Tuesday, Thursdays and Saturdays, starting with two-mile runs around campus before slowly building distance.

“I thought it would be a great accomplishment to say you ran a marathon at 14,” said Sean Cutler, 14. “Really, that is all it took.”

The group eventually shrank to 10 students and two staff members. Among the most difficult aspects of marathon preparation is the time commitment, several participants said.

“I knew a marathon was 26.2 miles, but I never realized how much people have to train for it,” said Anisa Ricci, 12.

In December and January, the group participated in half-marathons, and in February they completed an 18-mile run, all put on by SRLA.

It is remarkable to watch the students mature and progress, Satoorian and Hairapetian said.

“When they finish the half-marathon and the 18-mile run, they know they are capable,” Hairapetian said.

Some of the runners are taking a wait-and-see approach to Sunday, while others have their race planned down to the mile.

“I want to try my best,” Sean said. “I have set out when I am going to do certain things. I have planned out at Mile 6, I am going to start going faster, and when I am going to take the gel, and what I am going to be thinking about. I am really going to try and remember to make a pose at the end, I always forget.”

McKenna Middleton, 12, who has set herself a goal time of four hours, said she is most looking forward to the conclusion of the race.

“You feel relieved and overcome with happiness when you finish,” McKenna said.

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