When it comes to giving back to the community, few can match the dedication of San Antonio’s Mark Jones. Aspiring distance runners and everyday athletes alike flock to his free cross country camp in the summer, this year on Wednesdays at 7:45 a.m. at the Live Oaks Park on Leafy Hollow Court. Members of the FEAST Patriots home school track and cross country teams participate, and it is open to the public as well.
Coach Jones, a lifetime runner with enviable times in the 10K even after college, hails from Springfield, Ohio. His love of running overflowed to coaching his and others’ kids as a volunteer for San Antonio AAU, USATF, and home school teams. Even after the last of his six children was off to Texas A & M as a pole vault athlete, he has continued to coach the FEAST teams, hurrying off from work to mentor the next generation of runners.
Success has followed the training and discipline he instills in his runners. The FEAST girls’ cross country team rose last year to number seven in state ranking and tenth at the Nike Cross South Regional in The Woodlands, TX last November. The FEAST Patriot Invitational cross country meet he hosts every fall has even garnered attention from Milesplit Texas and will be a featured race on this fall’s circuit coverage.
But some of his favorite stories are the lives he touches of kids who just showed up to the free cross country running camp out of the blue. One young man says himself he was on track to head to prison. The care and attention of Jones encouraged him to work hard in school and at the sport he discovered one summer to go on to run in college. And at the end of his education he is looking at law enforcement for a career.
Coach Jones seeks to inspire the next generation of runners. His camp runs eight weeks of the summer in Live Oaks to get kids ready for the fall season. Most will go on to run cross country, but it is great conditioning for all athletes. Hope you can find a similar option near you to get off the couch!
If you are into fitness and enjoying the outdoors, San Antonio has nearly limitless opportunities. As a running family, we have always looked at the options for heading out the door and getting in a few miles. When trying to decide on which region of the South to choose for our recent relocation, we fell in love with San Antonio’s greenway system. This led us to take that job opportunity focus on finding a home with access to these amazing places. According to the city’s website, “The Howard W. Peak Greenway Trail System is a growing network of approximately 65 miles of developed multi-use and accessible trails.”
In the Northwest part of the city, Leon Valley Greenway currently has 17 miles of paved, multi-use trails with tons of off-road opportunities for mountain biking and trail running to boot. You can hardly even tell you are in the middle of the seventh largest city in the US! When exploring our future neighborhood, I used the Strava.com site to see where other runners and bikers go to know the different access points from the neighborhood. And there are also trailheads for parking (thirteen along the one we border) if you don’t have the pleasure of living as close as we do.
In other cities we have lived, we grew used to going on outings to get to nice running locales, and those will be found in abundance here too. Besides driving to other trails in the city, we have yet to get to Government Canyon State Natural Area. According to the warning signs, go with a friend because mountain lions sightings are a possibility. We look forward to making it over there to run with our vizsla, Sage, soon, though there is an entrance fee or annual pass for the Texas State Park system needed.
On the south side of the city, you can tour the San Antonio Missions starting at either the Alamo or at Mission Espada and wind your way up the mission route along the river to come to the highly popular San Antonio River Walk. As they continue to expand, new trails are being built to go into the countryside on the south. At this point it runs 3 miles out or so, according to my neighbors who bike regularly and venture out around the town when they want something new.
We have been here three months and have been too busy with settling in to even scratch the surface. Remember to stay hydrated, and when the rain comes and the dry riverbeds swell and cover the greenway trails, don’t try to cross the running water, the original purpose of the greenways that give this city so many advantages for the active lifestyle.
–Shauna Perez, new resident of San Antonio, runner and fitness enthusiast since 1986