Friday, September 3, 2004

Born to run

Angenie McCleary takes off

Express Staff Writer

Angenie McCleary

Angenie McCleary has been running most of her life ? but always toward something ? never away.

The 27-year old balances a well-honed sense of service with a deep passion for running.

For the past five years, McCleary has been the director of YAK ? the Youth Adult Konnection, a local organization which provides programs and services for middle and high school students.

The programs range from helping kids with their homework to facili-tating community service to bringing in speakers to address current issues. McCleary said YAK plans and implements about 40 projects a year.

?Some of the work we do is indirect. Working to get youth involved in positive things so they aren?t out doing negative things. We work with youth to identify needs in the community. We get ideas on what kinds of programs and projects are needed. They are the ones that need the services and so are the best ones to design them,? McCleary said.

In the past few years, YAK participants have created a teen center starting from the grassroots: hiring an architect, planning and fund raising which resulted in the HUB activity center inside the Community Campus in Hailey.

?If they didn?t do it from the start there would be no sense of ownership,? McCleary said. ?Creating a teen center is as valuable as having it.?

YAK meets on Tuesday nights at the St. Luke?s Center for Community Health in Hailey. McCleary said upwards of 50 teens show up each week.

?Anyone can join if they want to. They can come for a month, get busy with a project and then take a break. We try to really have an open door,? she remarked.

McCleary holds a degree in psychology from Middlebury College and said she has always enjoyed working with kids.

?I really love my job. I love seeing the youth feel like they really accomplish something and being proud of themselves. Sometimes they think something is going to be really boring and then seeing them thrive and enjoy it is a very rewarding part of the job,? she said.

We spoke with Angenie at the Idaho Mountain Express on Wednesday afternoon.
JZ: Where did the name Angenie come from?

AM: It?s a Hindu name. My parents met a woman who was given the name when she was in India. Angenie was one of the consorts of Sheba. She is the goddess of service and devotion and the mother of mischief. I?ve always really liked it. My friends always tease me that I have a hippie name because my brother?s name is George.

JZ: Are your parents runners?

AM: No. But they have always been really supportive of my running. They have gone to every single one of my marathons. For the Hood to Coast Relay they had 16 of us at their house and 25 over for dinner.

JZ: How many marathons have you run?

AM: I?ve run six, completed five. I ran 3:03 the first time and 3:03 the second. Last October I went to Chicago to try and qualify for the Olympic Trials. I felt like I didn?t have a good race, so I went to the Cal International eight weeks later. I got the stomach flu and could not stop throwing up. I just threw up while I was running. I ran the first 15 miles and then stopped. I thought I couldn?t end on that note, so eight weeks later I ran Austin. I knew the odds were really, really slim that I would qualify, but I did it anyway. I want to try really hard to make it in four years.

JZ: How many miles do you aver-age a week?

AM: 70 miles a week. When I was training for a marathon I did more.

JZ: Where do you like to run?

AM: I really like the trails. I like Corral Creek. It?s not too hilly so I can keep up a good pace. I don?t like to average slower than seven minutes and 30 seconds. When you go some-place like Greenhorn you have to slow down. Which is not a bad workout. I do speed work a couple of times a week on a track or Warm Springs Road.

JZ: Were you ever a sprinter?

AM: Sixth grade through fresh-man in high school I was a sprinter. I think I held the long jump school record in middle school. In college I ran the 1,500.

JZ: What do you like about running?

AM: I like a lot of things. I like the opportunity to set goals and work toward them. I have made a lot of good friends through the sport. When you are out there for two hours you know the people you run with better than most people in your life. I like pushing myself hard. I am not very coordinated so I don?t think I would have been very good at other sports.

JZ: Have you ever been injured?

AM: I think all runners have been injured at some point. It?s frustrating. You have to be patient and take as good of care of yourself as possible. A lot of it is preventative. You have to know your body and know when you are crossing over the line. When you are training hard you are always on verge of injury. You have be able to take a break and not push. Eating well, massage and stretching all help.

JZ: What do you eat?

AM: I eat everything and I eat a lot. Most people who know me are amazed at how much I can consume. A typical dinner is a chicken stir-fry or steak, but it?s more the amount on the plate than what I eat. I am a two-plate person at least, sometimes three. If I am training hard I have a Snickers bar or ice cream at night. I?ll never be able to quit running!

JZ: How do you relax?

AM: Running is kind of relaxing ? on some days. Its pretty relaxing living here. I really like my job. It?s a beautiful place. It?s easy to stay re-laxed.

JZ: What accomplishment are you most proud of?

AM: I think I have a number of accomplishments I am proud of. That I was able to find a job in this com-munity that I find so rewarding, I don?t think that is always so easy to do. To find work you love and to do it.

JZ: What are the major challenges for kids in this valley?

AM: Drugs and alcohol. You can come up with 10 issues that are directly related to that. I don?t think the problems we face here are different from any other place.

JZ: Do you think running kept you out of trouble when you were in high school?

AM: I think it was really instrumental to have something I was passionate about. I think I stayed out of a lot of trouble as a consequence. It never seemed hard to not party in high school. I did not feel like it was hard to say no. There was always a running race or meet. It gave me an out. It is still kind of that way.

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