How a long-distance running program puts kids in charge of their destiny.
Interview by Hannah Kiddoo
Helping others is nothing new to Kevin Kornegay, a personal injury and criminal law practitioner at Chad Jones Law in the Bryan-College Station area. He has a built a career doing just that. But his devotion to others has spilled into his free time as well. When Kornegay was living in Oklahoma, he became a mentor in a program called Run the Streets, which was started by a local judge and juvenile probation officer. Run the Streets aimed to change the lives of juvenile offenders as well as kids who just loved to run. When he moved to Texas, Kornegay founded the Lone Star Running Project, which utilizes mentorships, long-distance running, and goal-setting to build confidence in teenagers. Delinquent youth can participate in the program as an alternative to probation. Here Kornegay talks about lowering recidivism rates, mentoring, and success.
What kind of response have you had to the Lone Star Running Project? This is our second season, and the response has been overwhelming. We have a waiting list of mentors, and members of the community in the areas where we run come out and wave, honk, and cheer. We have had more than 30 students enroll for this season. We anticipate that number to grow to more than 50 next year.
Why running? Running long distance is a commitment that takes showing up on good days, bad days, rainy days, hot days (this is Texas), and days when you just don’t feel like it. Because our program is first and foremost a mentoring program, each runner trains with a mentor Tuesday nights, Thursday nights, and Saturday mornings. These mentors help our runners overcome the stress, fatigue, or boredom that they may face while training. Our goal is that by reaching milestones with a mentor who has a vested interest in their success and them, these kids will gain self-confidence.
Many of the youth that are in the probation system are there because they are acting out to get attention, are hanging with a bad crowd to seek acceptance, or are trying to figure out who they are. Each of these issues can be resolved through self-confidence, leading to happier, healthier youth and lower recidivism (which was proven through the successes of Run the Streets).
How did you come up with your motto, Run and Take It? First and most obviously, it is a play on Come and Take It, a famous Texas motto that inspires our runners when we tell them about its history. Secondly, Run and Take It means take the pain that comes with long-distance running (in other words, toughen up) and take your dreams, your goals, your hopes and do the work to achieve them. Our message is that no one is going to give it to you; you have to do the work to make it happen.
Has the program been successful? In just one season, we have affected the lives of many youths who felt they had no options, whether it was related to sports, self-image, relationships, health issues, or family problems. All of our youth runners have become more self-confident and have begun to believe in themselves and what they can accomplish. In addition, some youths who were struggling to run even one mile are now running multiple miles at a six- to seven-minute pace. In fact, every single runner can now run more than 10 miles at a good pace, most below a 10:30 minute-mile average. We had some students who were breaking down physically, mentally, and emotionally during our three-mile runs who are now laughing and carrying on while doing those same runs.
Why do you think this program works? Mentors are the number one key to the program. Without mentors, none of this would be possible. Over two to three weeks, the mentors and youths find their natural fit. We don’t tell the mentors what to say or what to talk about; our only instruction is to be positive at all times and show interest in the youths and their lives. If the mentors need further guidance, we tell them to just ask the kids lots and lots of questions about themselves. Some kids have developed tough shells, but after a few weeks of mentors asking them questions and showing interest, the youths really open up. A bond develops.
Mentors are attorneys, probation workers, clerical workers, professors, people in the construction industry and oil industry, etc. Anyone who passes an interview process and background check can be a mentor; but we are looking for people who want to help youth through being positive and encouraging. (To become a mentor, contact us on our website at lonestarrunning.com.)
There are absolutely no paid positions in our organization. Everything is volunteer- or donation-based. We are a 501c3, with strong conflict of interest policies. Youths don’t pay for a thing to participate in this program yet they receive running shoes, socks, and shirts. We also provide nutrition and water pre- and post-run, as well as a mid-season party, pre-half marathon party (to ensure the youths have a nutritious meal the night before), and a post-half marathon party to celebrate with the family of each youth. We have had great donations of goods and services; but we still need financial support.
What are some of your biggest challenges? Our biggest challenge is finding safe places to run—places with low traffic, good sidewalks, and minimal road crossings. Our first season was purely road runs. This spring we added trail runs and recently completed the Hog Wild 5K and 10K at a ranch in Bremond and the Millican 10k Trail Race.
What’s the plan for the future? This year we hosted our own Hog Wild 5K and 10K race. One of our board members, Chris Adams, is a race director and has plans for the Hog Wild race to spring board us into hosting multiple races a year that are targeted to getting families to run together in various events like trail runs, adventure runs, fun runs, color runs, and obstacle runs. These races will help us fund the starting of similar running programs in other cities. This fall, Spring will have its own Lone Star Running Project sister program. We hope to follow that growth with sister programs in Waco, Austin, and South Carolina, where one of our active mentors will be moving soon. (Contact us if you would like to help start a program in your city.)
Our immediate focus is on our Hog Crazy 5K and 10K on April 30 in Bryan. More information about the race can be found at lonestarrunning.com/hogcrazy. The race is completely free and all donations go to supporting our group. We look forward to seeing a lot of people out there encouraging, supporting, and running with our youth!
For more information about Lone Star Running, go to lonestarrunning.com.