Summer Run Club in Carmel Valley combines fitness, family, friendship

Every Tuesday and Thursday morning this summer, parents and children have gathered at Solana Ranch Park to log laps and enjoy exercise with the Summer Run Club. A family 5K capped a summer of fun and fitness on Sunday, Aug. 9, with runners racing a scenic course around the park and along the Pacific Highlands Ranch urban amenity trail.

Sean Kono, 10, blazed through the course to finish first in 24:30.

The Summer Run Club founder and leader Sheri Kono is always easy to find, always wearing her trademark visor with a huge flower attached to it, and a big smile.

A former gymnast and three-time Division III National Championship diver at UC San Diego, she hadn’t been following a consistent fitness routine until 2010, when she picked up weight training and high-intensity intervals and became hooked on a healthy lifestyle.

Fitness has become a big part of Kono’s life in the past five years, and this year, she ran her second full marathon. In 2013, she became certified as a personal trainer and runs a boot camp with Wired Fitness.

Kono started a lunchtime running club at Solana Highlands School in 2011 and the first Summer Run Club took off in 2013, ending with a 5K around the campus. Last year’s group was smaller as she transitioned the club to the new Solana Ranch School, but this summer, the group swelled to 50 active moms, dads and children.

“I loved every second I’ve spent on this program this summer,” she said.

In addition to building a running base, the participants do speed testing to track how they improve over the weeks, as well as strength testing such as plank holds. The end-of-summer 5K is a fun celebration of how far they have all come together.

Post-race, runners wound down and enjoyed donated treats such as bananas, Einstein Brothers bagels, Kashi bars and Bear Naked granola. Throughout the race’s checkpoints, runners earned prizes from sponsors, and a very generous raffle ensured that nearly every participant walked away with a gift from run club sponsors Movin Shoes, Road ID, Carmel Valley Pharmacy, Halo visors, Kashi, Trader Joe’s, Wired Fitness, Carlsbad 500, Carlsbad 5K, Souplantation, Baked Bear, Team b.strong and Pelfunc Inc., a local company that has developed a Heart Rate Touch application for the iPhone.

“This is an amazing event because it’s so community-oriented,” said Mick Gieskes from Movin’ Shoes in Encinitas, also a sprinting coach at UC San Diego. “It was so great to see the fun and camaraderie everyone had out there.”

Throughout the summer, Kono took meticulous records of each lap run, and runners tallied their mileage as well as their thoughts and progress in Kono’s running journals.

“I did good. My friend Teo wasn’t feeling good so I held back with him,” wrote Jack Bolger in one of his entries.

“When I first start running I feel drowsy,” Justin Luo wrote in the blanks in his journal. “When I am done running I feel energetic.”

The journals were also filled with tips and inspirational quotes for the fledgling runners.

“It’s very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners,” read a quote from running guru George Sheehan. “Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.”