SOAR marathon training creates a life altering event, running a marathon

2023 team from the LA Marathon finish
2023 team from the LA Marathon finish
Kevin Sarkissian

Marathons, a proof of human endurance, are lengthy races challenging one’s human ability to overcome a challenge. SOAR Marathon Training (Students Off And Running) helps students overcome that challenge. SOAR provides training for ages 13-18 to run 380 miles over six months.

Training sessions are held on Tuesdays and Thursdays after school at 3:30 pm at various bike trail locations, typically in the Valencia town center. On Saturday mornings, training starts at 6 am. Every 4-5 weeks, a team event is organized. The first event is the LA Cancer Challenge 5K at UCLA in October. SOAR covers the registration fees for all participating students, and the training period lasts from early October until the LA Marathon in March.

About the founder
The SOAR marathon program was created by Kevin Sarkissian, the head director and assistant coach of SOAR. It began with leading a high school marathon group in the late 1900s, and later accepting a job with the William S. Hart Union High School District, starting the initiation of SOAR in 2007. Soar revealed immense transformations in students who participated in the program.

Kevin Sarkissian stated, “I’ve always had a desire to help people. I’ve always cheered for the little guy, the underdog, the non-athlete.” When asked about where his motivation to become a coach stemmed from, Sarkissian shared, “I struggled with my own self confidence growing up.”

He takes a unique, entertaining, and engaging approach. Where students and adults run for SOAR, training together. “We suffer together! All conditions, all hours, cold, hot, rainy, hills, flats, dirt, streets. You get the idea.” This program strays away from typical sports programs. The program introduces adults training mile for mile while students train for the marathon.

“Important to note that SOAR is designed to transform anyone into a marathon runner regardless of athletic ability.” Sakissian adds with, “If you have the drive, and can make the commitment, we can make it happen.” Volunteer coaches have an impressive record of completing marathons, half marathons, ultra marathons, and are inspiring others to do the same.

Getting Involved
T. Liu, a charity runner for SOAR shares her journey of getting involved in the Mardi Gras 5k/10k, and becoming an ambassador for the event.

Through this, she learned all about SOAR, training kids in their journey to complete the Los Angeles Marathon. She was deeply impressed by the commitment and determination of these young runners. Liu adds, “I knew I needed a good string group to run with if I ever wanted to attempt a full marathon. So I joined SOAR as a charity runner in 2021, and ran my first marathon in 2022. Definitely, no regrets!”

While running is often seen as a solo sport, Lui emphasizes the importance of programs like SOAR transforming this solo sport into a team sport. SOAR, participants have the opportunity to run together, support one another, and form meaningful connections. Lui says, “I’ve met so many amazing people and runners. It’s a great schedule, you just need to show up and follow the training.”

Creating a difference
SOAR’s success is driven by the unwavering commitment of everyone involved, from parents to coaches and community supporters. They support each student throughout their journey, regardless of ability or personal challenges.

Sarkissian addresses, “the program has changed very little, but the kids we work with have changed a lot.” While the program remains unchanged, the young participants face increasing pressure to excel physically, academically, and socially, leading to anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and poor choices. The SOAR program has helped ease those worries.

Sarkissian acknowledges SOAR’s limited marketing efforts and wishes they had been more proactive. “I guess if I could change one thing looking back, I would have been more active in marketing and community outreach for the program.”. Word-of-mouth recommendations from students who complete the program remain the primary source of recruitment for the program.

SOAR is built upon volunteers with support from families, the Hart district, the city, and community partners. In February, SOAR hosts the annual Mardi Gras Madness fun run at the Valencia Town Center. The event has been sold out for 12 years and attracts over 1,000 attendees.

To participate in the program and be involved in future teams, further information can be found in the SOAR Marathon Training website.

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About the Contributor
Jada Abdon, Staff Writer
Jada Abdon is a senior at Golden Valley and one of the Community staff writers for the Grizzly Gazette. She's extremely attentive with each task. She enjoys partaking in music, fine arts, plus creative endeavors. Throughout high school she has developed an infatuation with science and writing defining her passion. She has been involved in CSF, National Honor Society, and has been actively doing community service for the past four years. She has been part of the Golden Valley Grizzly Marching Band all through high school. With almost a decade of musical experience playing flute along with an artistic passion she hopes to dive into the following themes. She believes the significance of a journalist provides a wide range of freedom, granting a voice for herself and bearing the responsibility to be as informative as possible to audiences. In her spare time she enjoys playing instruments, playing with her three dogs (two jack Russell and a Labrador), and tending to her farm of chickens.