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!