SAN ANTONIO – Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City Independent School District’s Manny Olivo has laced up for more than 100 half-marathons and marathons, plus 50 or so ultramarathons, in his lifetime.
But when he approaches the starting line for the TCS New York City Marathon next month, the race will feel different.
It’s more than a hobby, and more than 26.2 miles. It’s his way of inspiring his students that they “can do anything that they put their heart into,” he said.
Olivo, a special-education job coach for SCUCISD, was one of 50 educators across the United States to be selected by the Team TCS Teachers initiative to run in the 50th New York City Marathon, which takes place on Nov. 7.
In order to be selected, Olivo said he submitted a short video about why he wanted to run the race.
“It was basically inspired by my students that I have here at the school district, and I got selected,” he said, adding that he created the video before COVID-19.
The pandemic forced the race to go virtual last year, but Olivo ran it here with his supporters cheering him on at a finish line of his own.
This will be his second time running the race in the Big Apple, one of six elite routes in the World Marathon Majors.
When he ran it the first time in 2018, he entered via the lottery, which is a coveted ticket due to its popularity. Otherwise, runners have to qualify or raise money for charity.
“I think that I’m going to have much more energy and much more of a drive to really do this for my students and enjoy the race, and really reflect on what I can do better for myself as a person and as a worker (at SCUCISD),” he said.
His job at the district is to help his students with disabilities transition from school to adulthood by helping them find employment.
Olivo said he connects with his students on a personal level because he was born with a disability and was bullied as a kid.
He shows them the medals and buckles he’s earned from his dozens of races and gives them to his students at the end of the school year, he said.
The material badges don’t mean too much to him, it’s the experience and the inspiration that make the races worth it.
And over the years, he’s accumulated more than a few medals and buckles to spare.
Olivo, a lifelong runner, said he’s traveled the world for races, from 5Ks to half-marathons to marathons to ultramarathons.
That includes a recent 135-mile race in Alaska and a 100-miler in Oklahoma.
“They were in awe,” he said of his student’s reaction to him finishing the Oklahoma route. “They love to see what I do.”
He races regularly, not competitively.
“I call myself like a little slow tank,” he chuckled.
His goals, as he nears 50 years old, are simple: Stay healthy, feel young, and inspire his students and colleagues.
“And dealing with a lot of issues that this country’s going through, there’s not a lot of active people that are really staying healthy in life,” he said.
Olivo said the New York City race is the “best” he’s ever participated in, but the biggest reward will be returning home and telling his students all about it.
“I want to share a story with these students when I come back and let them know that these are things that you can do on your own, these are goals that you can accomplish, don’t ever let anybody tell you that you can’t do anything, and that’s what I want to come back and tell them,” he said.
“The students that I have, a lot of people tell them that there are things they can’t do, and that’s not true. Any of my students can do anything that they put their heart into.”
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