YAL YOUTH COMPLETES L.A. MARATHON
COMPTON—The road to success is long and winding for Ricardo Villeda, and he marked a milestone on Wednesday, March 18, when he achieved his goal of completing the L.A. Marathon.
The youth participates in the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Youth Activities League program and hopes his accomplishment brings him one step closer to a career in law enforcement.
Villeda began his marathon quest in September.
“I started running cross-country practice and it grew into a commitment,” he said. “Eight of us belong to a group called Students Run L.A., and compete in their events.”
The commitment includes a five-mile run on weekdays and up to 15 miles on Saturday and Sunday.
“I ran on the track at school and on every single street in Compton,” Villeda said. “The people on Alondra Boulevard were the friendliest. They always cheered me on and supported my efforts.”
Stretching and proper diet are essential when training for a marathon, he said, which means staying away from junk food and eating a lot of carbohydrates before the race.
“I ate a lot of pasta the night before,” Villeda said.
His race adventure began at 4 a.m.
“I wore a bag over my upper body because it was raining” he said. “It was a cool day, and that was a good thing.”
There were a lot of kids running who talked to each other, he said, but he kept to himself and focused on completing the race without stopping.
“I listened to rock and Mexican music,” Villeda said.
Tents were available along the way for massages and pain-relieving sprays, and he was tempted— but he kept running.
“My legs started cramping at about 13 miles,” Villeda said. “There were people along the route offering water bottles and that kept me hydrated.”
The biggest thrill of the race was by the finish line, he said, as spectators at the Santa Monica Pier cheered on the runners.
“I could see the finish line and teared-up,” he said. “My legs hurt, but the adrenaline I felt was incredible.”
Villeda said he started sprinting and wanted to collapse when he finished, but did not.
“I finished in the middle of the pack,” he said.
The real pain, Villeda said, was the next morning.
“I woke up and thought oh my God,” he said. “It took a while to recover.”
He enjoys his time at the Compton YAL and adds to his marathon training by participating in the youth boxing program.
“I do not compete, but I love learning,” Villeda said. “My goal is to be an LASD Deputy, but if that does not work out, competitive boxing will be in my future.”
Villeda said he is too old to join the junior LASD programs, but YAL Director Deputy Ben Sahile told him to stay focused on his education.
“I am concentrating on school, so I can start college with great academic skills,” he said. “I am going to major in criminal justice.”
Villeda said the next quest on his journey to the LASD is the 2013 marathon, and the middle of the pack is not acceptable anymore.
“I am training for next year, but my goal is breaking the four-hour mark,” he said.
Sahile said Villeda is an inspiration to youngsters.
“He works hard and puts his best foot forward,” he said. “Kids watch Villeda and feel they can accomplish anything.”
Sahile supports Villeda’s LASD dream.
“I tell him to get his degree, keep doing the right thing for himself and the community, and stay out of trouble,” he said. “He has all the attributes of a great deputy.”
Villeda said more students should try the sport.
“Running keeps me out of trouble,” he said. “It gives me focus and direction towards my goals.”
The Compton YAL is free to children living in the city. For more information, visit their location at 700 N. Alameda St. between the hours of 3 and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.