“Coaching is what makes you breathe, what makes you alive… I love it.” As a coach, runner, and father, Mario Velarde is an amazing individual. For almost forty years, Velarde has been coaching runners of all ages, levels and abilities. From short-distance sprints to full triathlons, five-year-olds to those over ninety, Velarde has helped hundreds of individuals reach their fullest physical potential. He started running as a freshman in high school, not very athletic, he recalls being “the slowest one on the team.” However, his cross-country coach always encouraged him to push himself and improve. “He made running fun.” It was then that Velarde fell in love with running and was inspired to coach. “One man changed my whole life,” he says. “I’ll always be grateful to him.”
Since then, Coach Mario has coached dominant running organizations such as the So. Cal Pacers, members of the Inland Empire Running Club, CIF Champion high school teams, and even his wife, helping her achieve an incredible 2:52:30 marathon time! Velarde has also coached the “Team-In-Training”, supporting leukemia research and the “Train to End Stroke”, supporting the American Heart Association. Many of these group participants are first-time runners. It always amazes Coach Mario when he oversees their improvement as they go from “the couch to running!” As of today, Velarde has completed fifteen marathons and countless half marathons, 5Ks, and track races. Aside from his marathon record being an impressive time of 3:05:00, he also finished the 2008 Arizona Ironman. Wanting to do something extraordinary, Velarde trained intensely for 13 months, refusing to give up. His hard work paid off when he finished with a superb 16:30:30! The most inspiring aspect about Coach Mario is all his coaching is volunteered. His greatest reward is the satisfaction that he’s making a difference. Coach Mario explains he never coached for the money; rather, his goal is for his athletes to experience the feeling of accomplishment. “You get back more in the little things…I get more than I give.”
Aside from his running and coaching career, Velarde enjoys spending time with his family. He has three daughters, all of whom are aspiring athletes. They, along with his wife, often hike together and have family adventures. Though he has achieved momentous things athletically, Velarde says he is most proud of his wonderful family.
I can honestly say I’ve never met a kinder individual than Coach Mario. Truly a hero, he is both a friend and coach to all. To learn more about IERC, visit www.ierunningclub.com.
Katherine Truong, Community Contributor, Inland Empire Running Club member