Marissa Kallenbach, 12, follows her passion; urges runners to stay strong

By Lisa Stone - ReminderNews
Stafford - posted Wed., Jun. 5, 2013
Marissa Kallenbach at the Cross State Championship. Photo courtesy of JoAnne Kallenbach. - Contributed Photo

Marissa Kallenbach, at just 12 years old, has already run in more than 20 5Ks. Most recently, she ran in the June 2 Hartford Marathon Foundation’s Amica Iron Horse Half Marathon, 5K and 10K in Simsbury. She took second place in the “Under 15 year old” division in her first 10K race, which covers about 6 miles.

Marissa started running when she was only 7 years old. She was inspired by her mother, JoAnne Kallenbach, who has been running since high school. According to JoAnne, her daughter first joined in the Turkey Trot Race in Framingham, Mass., on Thanksgiving Day five years ago.

“Marissa was a natural runner,” said JoAnne. From that point on, with the support of the entire family, Marissa was entering one 5K after another. Now, more than 20 races later, Marissa has several awards to show for her efforts. These awards include buckets, ribbons, hats and even a dish.

Though Marissa is a part of Stafford Middle School’s cross-country team in the fall, she still runs every Monday and Wednesday after school. The program is called “Run For Fun” and is run by the school’s cross-country coach. In the spring, the young runner also plays soccer, which she feels helps keep her in shape for running longer races. During the winter months, she runs inside at the Star Hill Family Athletic Center in Tolland.

After the deadly bombings at this year’s Boston Marathon, Marissa doubted whether she would ever feel safe enough to run another race. “My mother always said to wait at the finish line because I would be safe there, and she would be able to find me,” said Marissa. According to the young runner, after the bombings, that sense of safety was damaged, but Marissa was determined that she would not allow the terrorists to take one of her true loves away from her.

Since Marissa feels that running comes naturally to her and she really loves being in races, with the help of her family, she decided that she would work through her fears and run when and where she wants.

When Marissa was asked what she would tell the Boston bombers, she replied with a serious and somber face, “Why do you have to be so mean? You hurt so many people and other people will be messed up for the rest of their lives because of what they saw.”

Marissa also had advice to give to other young runners who are still a bit apprehensive about running in marathons or other races: “Keep running,” she said. She feels that terrorists should not be allowed to alter the way we live. “We need to just do what we want to and it will be all right,” she said.

Aside from running with her family on a regular basis, Marissa said that she doesn’t do any special training for the races. Her father, Scott, and her brother, Brandon, accompany Marissa and her mom on a 3-mile run whenever possible. The family’s 5-year-old golden retriever, Jake, runs with the family, too.

Marissa is looking forward to running many more road races, and encourages others to run, as well.

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