Story by Scott LeBlanc, as told to Ashley Festa
LeBlanc is assistant director of athletics training facilities and a Rock’n Red Birds coach.

I worked with the participants at the evening practice, while Michael Hennessey trained the morning group. There were a couple of people in my group who were so dedicated, and they were why I kept coming out every day. Some of these people were not teenagers anymore, and if they can do it, anybody can do it. Seeing their dedication to come out in 103 degree heat was incredible. I’ve been running all my life, and my whole philosophy of life is based on wellness. But to see someone who’s never even done a 5K before turn around and do a half marathon, it’s truly remarkable. They were inspirational.

At a team reunion in January, members celebrated their accomplishments. Aida Albiar (from left), Vanessa Garcia ’08, Itza Casanova, John Casanova, Willie Lucero and Karen DeMello ’04 were among the attendees.

God gave me a gift, and I love to share the gift of exercise. Many people discount exercising in the heat, but these people kept coming out, day after day. And I gave them tough workouts! But they all stuck to their guns, and no one complained about it. Then they started seeing the weight coming off and their times improving.

If someone were to ask me about joining the UIW group next year, I’d say ‘Come on!’ Come and give it five or six weeks. After the fifth week, you’re starting to get in shape, you’re sleeping better, the pounds are coming off, and you’re even a nicer person to be around. You’ll have long-term and weekly goals. I didn’t let them get discouraged by setbacks. I just said, ‘Listen to your body.’ It will tell you.

And with us, you’ve got a group. We had 97 participants in this event, so there’s always someone you can talk to. Camaraderie is a vital piece to this journey. And it’s the journey that counts. The marathon is the reward.