By Karen Lozano
For someone who has never been on the ShadowChase Running Club Board of Directors until this year, Mike Araiza has most likely been to more meetings than any sitting director, with the exception of Heidi Ryan. But it is because he starting dating Ryan that he ended up attending those countless meetings with the SC membership director in the first place.
Little did Araiza know that their partnership would end up leading to a future filled with running shoes, paperwork, along with the Modesto Marathon and the Teens Run Modesto program.
“One day I was admiring my brother-in-law’s haircut, so I asked him who his barber was, made an appointment, and that was that,” said Araiza of his first encounter with the fiery Ryan, who operates Heidi’s Hair Salon. That was in 1997, and he’s been a mainstay in the club ever since.
Araiza said his position of TRM director just kind of evolved.
“In 2009, as the idea of having a marathon and student training program was just getting off the ground, there was a lot of energy and time focused on the marathon, and not so much dedicated to a student’s program. I started working with Linda McFadden, who had championed the student program idea based on her experience with the Students Run LA Program in Los Angeles,” he explained.
“Since I had more free time to dedicate to the task, I did a lot of the legwork, and eventually assumed the role of TRM director,” he said. Making the job of creating the program easier was the Students Run LA Program, which supplied us with written material on how to start a student running program.”
Araiza is quick to credit others with the success of the program, which is instrumental in training close to 250 students annually to run the full and half marathons in Modesto every March. He oversees their weekly training; supplies students with shoes, shirts and hydration gear; maintains contact with volunteer mentors and parents; makes arrangements for special events such as the Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon in San Francisco, which students use as a training run. It’s not beyond Araiza to pick up a shovel and clear the running path in East La Loma Park of mud and debris from the recent rains, or to head out at o’dark thirty in torrential showers to the marathon course prior to race day to try and clear the roads. Araiza arranges for buses and porta-potties. If he sees a need, he simply fills it. Period.
“There certainly is a lot of work involved with running the teens’ program, and without a dedicated group of site leaders and mentors, it couldn’t be done,” he said.
What’s the most difficult part of the job?
“Paperwork!” he easily proclaims.
And the best?
“Watching students thrive, gain confidence and go on to do things they may not have tried had they not learned to believe in themselves,” he said.
Many of the students in the program have gone on to attend college, something many have admitted would not have entered their minds before finding their confidence through running. Last year Araiza helped oversee the awarding of some $15,000 in college scholarships to TRM graduates!
“I would like to see the TRM program recognized communitywide for its positive role in helping students lead a healthy lifestyle and reach their full potential academically,” Araiza said.
Despite all the blood, sweat and tears devoted to the TRM program, Araiza recently won the Director of Runs position on the ShadowChase board.
“I got tired of not being able to vote on any motions,” he explained. “Actually, Heidi submitted my name without my knowing about it,” he laughed.
In addition to his TRM and ShadowChase duties, Araiza is a volunteer on the committee that manages the Peace Officer Memorial Run, and along with Barbara Miller founded the Spirit of Giving run, serving on its committee.
“My other community involvements include being on the Helen White Memorial Trail Committee, which raised $2 million to build a trail on the west side, and in helping form a student’s running club at James Marshall Elementary School. Along with Miller, I also support the running clubs at Wakefield Elementary, Empire Elementary, Wilson Elementary, Bret Harte Elementary and Westport Elementary School,” he said.
Araiza has had a varied background after moving to Modesto in 1960 from Porterville at the age of 12. He picked peaches every summer to supplement the family’s income, served in the US Navy for six years, and worked for Procter & Gamble for 21 years, before deciding to go into farming walnuts in 1994, which he still does.
Once a strong runner, Araiza said he hasn’t pushed himself since learning of a heart disorder after racing. But while in his mid-50s, he ran a 20-minute 5K and a 3:22 full marathon at the California International Marathon.
“Now, I love running with whoever will put up with me, and is willing to laugh a little,” he said.
What advice does he give others about volunteering in their community? “Find your passion and don’t be afraid to get involved!”
If you’d like to see a ShadowChase Running Club member profiled in the Volunteer Spotlight, please email Karen Lozano at firstname.lastname@example.org.