YONKERS, N.Y. - Two dozen Yonkers teens and their mentors greeted the sunny Saturday morning with their first attempt at running the Yonkers Half Marathon, a goal the Teens Run Yonkers running club members had been working toward all summer.
"This is a first time running this kind of race," Ernesto Escobar said as he stood with his running mates in front of the Yonkers' train station waiting for race time. "Running gives me goals to reach. It takes a lot of discipline."
Teens Run Yonkers Executive Director Robert Grabel accompanied his runners through the 13.1-mile hilly stretch from downtown Yonkers to Hastings-on-Hudson and back with each runner successfully completing the run.
"These young people are really dedicated," Grabel said. "We're focused on better health, setting goals and building self esteem. We have teens from all different backgrounds, some who have gone through difficult situations. You can easily see the positive results -- the impact on the kids physically and mentally."
The group works to help young people to prepare for life experiences, such as advancing educational opportunities, entering the job market, and contributing to the community while engaging in healthy and team-oriented activities.
Mentor Will Rababi, who ran the half marathon with the Teen Run Yonkers runners, said the teens were proving they could set and reach goals.
"Running a half marathon is a tough test for anyone," Rababi said. "I'm really impressed with how dedicated and disciplined the kids are."
Aside from providing an alternative outlet, Teens Run Yonkers focuses on the all-around personal development of the kids. Running is utilized as a tool to model the act of setting and attaining larger goals.
"Challenging a long-distance race and finishing is an amazing feat for anyone," Grabel said after he came across the half marathon finish line Saturday. "Each of the kids gets a medal that signifies a personal achievement. And they are learning that they can reach any goal the same way."
For more information about Teen Run Yonkers, visit www.teensrunyonkers.org.