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Be The Change Series: Katy Students Run

Super stoked about this! We are going to share inspiring experiences from members of our tribe that are involved with community programs that use running as a method to positively impact lives.

I hope for these experiences to be a little spark that permits us to think of how we can get involved with our local communities, create a positive impact, and enrich our own lives in the process. Win – Win!

Texan, Jonathan French, kicks off our series by sharing his involvement with the non-profit Katy Students Run.


We all have our reasons for starting to run. We all have our reasons for continuing to run. But what if you never had that motivation, encouragement, inspiration, or to start to begin with? Would you be the same person? I don’t think I would be the same person if I had not started running.

On Pajarito mountain at Jemez Mountain Trail Run

Running has helped me through some difficult times over the last couple of years. But I always ran to see what I could get out of it, not what I could do for others while running. That mentality soon changed when I started trail running. People have offered me GU, S-caps, or water from their own CamelBak. Last May I ran the Jemez 50 and as I climbed the backside of Pajarito Mountain, the elevation reduced me to a shuffle. Soon a nice older lady stopped to offer encouragement and guided me to the top and down to the ski lodge. She never left my side during that arduous climb. After the Pipeline aid station I never saw her again. Turns out it was Betsy Kalmeyer, five time winner of the Hardrock 100. At a recent Capt’n Karl’s race I bonked hard and could barely put one foot in front of the other until an older gentleman found me and flagged down a car to take me to the start. I soon realized I wanted to give and not just take from running, but didn’t know where to start.

That dilemma was soon fixed upon learning about the opportunity to be a coach for a program called Katy Students Run (KSR). KSR is a nonprofit organization started in 2008 by Jenny Demarest who also wanted to give back to the running community in a unique way. KSR takes high school students from local high schools in Katy, Texas and trains them to run the Aramco Houston Half Marathon every January. This year KSR has about 30 students between two high schools. Each spring students are nominated by teachers at their respective schools. A running background or fee is not required, just a willingness to attend practice three days a week and participate in team building exercises and workouts.


Along the way students learn how to set goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely (SMART), which then aids them to set goals for other aspects of their lives, including academics. Through sponsors like Luke’s Locker, Katy YMCA, Katy Fit, CrossFit Elevate, and the Houston Marathon Foundation, students are not only provided shoes, running gear, and entry to the half marathon but they learn the value of dedication and hard work. CrossFit Elevate and the YMCA coaches them through strength training utilizing core workouts and spin class. The Athlete Stop provides treatment for injuries if needed.


The twenty-odd coaches provide encouragement, support, and facilitate the progression of setting goals along the way. Most of the coaches are teachers like me, which allows them to check up on the kids who have missed practice. Not everyone runs the same pace and everyone finishes practice at various times. Some are continuous runners and others are walkers. Some even follow a Galloway plan. No one runs on their own, coaches or students, and no one is ever left behind. Often times the faster groups run back and encourage the slower groups. Just like ultra runners, we run when we can, walk when we should.


Aside from workouts and running, students participate in fundraising, like car washes, and volunteer during the season. A big volunteer opportunity is to man the turnaround aid station at the Houston Half and Relay every October. I am looking forward to their encouragement at mile 6.5 and hope they give others what they give me every week – inspiration.

As a teacher I often wonder how I’ve impacted the hundreds of students who have sat in my class over the past decade. Did I make any difference at all? Am I just wasting my time? As a result I lost the joy of teaching. Since joining KSR, that has all changed. I look forward to the afternoon workouts and watching the kids run farther every weekend. I enjoy watching the speedsters leave me in the dust during track workouts. Seeing personalities open up and blossom is priceless. Attitudes have changed, including mine. I no longer doubt that I have an impact.


It’s been said that there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving. I couldn’t be happier. The big day is January 13, 2013. I wish I could run with them and see them cross the line and have that medal draped around their necks. But as I’m struggling through the later miles of the Bandera 100K, I will draw upon the kids I coach and think of their smiles, their strength, their kindness to let me run with them, and their determination to do something most won’t ever do. They will be my ultra coaches for the weekend as I battle a distance I’ve never done before. I consider myself fortunate to have them for coaches as much as I’m fortunate to be able to coach them.

– Jonathan French

To learn more about the Katy Students Run, check out their website at .

A special thanks to Jonathan for sharing with us and John Saunders Photography for the great photos.

If you are a TALON (TX, AR, LA, OK, NM) runner and would like to share your experience being involved with a run related program in your community, please drop me a note.

Be active – Feel the buzz!

David –


About the author

David Hanenburg David Hanenburg is the passionate dirt-lovin' creator of Endurance Buzz and has been playing in the endurance sports world since 2000 after knockin' the dust off of his Trek 950 hardtail thanks to a friend asking to go ride some local dirt. In 2007 he ran his first ultra on the trails and fell in love with the sport and its people. For more information on David's endurance sports journey, check out the About page.

2 Responses to “Be The Change Series: Katy Students Run”

  1. on 09 Nov 2012 at 8:18 am olga

    This is an awesome story, thanks, Jonathan, for sharing – and doing!

  2. on 09 Nov 2012 at 12:15 pm r.w. dillard

    This article has so much voice. While reading I did get a little misty eyed because your passion for this effort is such a personal testimony of moving(literally) in the right direction. I know and have known runners, but I have never heard it expressed this way before, and I think it’s awesome! Take care…