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Fresno's Youngest Marathon (and Ultramarathon) Runner

Koda (Photo Courtesy: Holeman Family)

Running a marathon takes a lot of physical and mental preparation. That's why the 26.2 mile trail is typically reserved for adults. Typically.

FOX26 Sports reporter Nick King spotlights a running who's not old enough to drive or shave, but he's already an accomplished marathoner who wants to keep running further and further.

His name is Koda Holeman and he's just 13-years-old.

Just before setting out on a 31-mile run, Koda tells his mom, Jodi, that he's "fine."

Jodi said, "Fine? Okay, so the fact that you're going to be going 31 miles is not at all on your list of concerns?"

Koda... "No."

Going 31 miles would be out of the question for most runners, and inconceivable for most kids.

But Koda is not most runners and he's certainly not like most kids. "When I run sometimes I enter this mode, it's just like boom, just like I'm gone. It's like nothing can stop me," said Koda.

Nothing. Not the fact that Koda is the youngest marathon and ultramarathon runner.

And not the fact that Koda's 4’ 8” able to duck under his fellow competitors, and the smallest in his 8th grade class.

Koda said, "I mean, why would it bother me that I'm small?"

Mother Jodi said, "He never doubts himself. The idea of failure is not something that comes to him. Whatever the distance, whatever his goals are, he just never doubts his ability."

This all started about 6 years ago, when Koda's mom started running, and returning from races with the standard finishers medal. "Every time I would come home with a new medal, you know he wanted to see, 'what did you get, what does it look like?' And he was just like fascinated by these things they would give me for going out and doing a run. You know, 'what do I have to do to get one? How can I get these? I can run, I can do it too,'" said Jodi.

At age 7, Koda ran his first race... a 5K.

Jodi said, "As soon as we were done with the 5k, he was already wanting to do, you know, 'can I run further?'"

The next year, Kod's parents let him try a 10K. - "I thought for sure, he'll be toast at the end. He'll be tired... soon as we were done with that one, he was like, 'OK, can I do another one? Can I do a half marathon,'" said Jodi.

And so, at 10-years-old, Koda signed up for the San Joaquin River Trail Half Marathon. It's a long, tough course, so mom made Koda promise to stay with her, to pace himself. "But there is just a competitive drive in him, that even the word of mom cannot stop or suppress. And he literally took off from me in the first mile. I mean it was literally me shouting at him on the course, like, 'Come. Back,'" said Jodi.

He never did. Koda beat more than two-thirds of the field that day, shocking his mom and everybody else.

Race director Nate Moore said, "Who didn't say anything after the race? Because at some point everyone either saw him or got passed by him."

Koda was first place for the 19-and-under age group. The only one in the 19-and-under age group… and again, he was 10.

Jodi said, "I think it was in that moment that I thought, 'oh, this is kind of different. He's like the only one out here that's under 19. And he's doing really, really well."

From there, it’s almost became a routine for Koda. Finish a race, stand alone atop the podium for his age group, then immediately ask his parents to go further.

Koda said, "You know like when you like have that high score in your game on your phone, and you're like, 'I'm going to beat it again.' I'm going to beat it again. That's how it is. Like my high score."

Koda ran the Two Cities Marathon each of the last two years.

Koda's dad said, "You're awesome, buddy. It just makes me cry. Very proud of you."

But the high score is 50K… twice!

The first came when he was 11-years-old. 31 miles on a trail that had more than 5,000 feet of elevation gain. It's the kind of race even some experienced runners don't finish, because it can take all day.

Race director Nate Moore said, "When they came through the finish line together, and he's like, 'my mom made me go slow.' You know like, it was just cracking me up, because I couldn't even wrap my mind around that."

It's all pretty tough to wrap the mind around. A middle schooler who enjoys running crazy amounts of miles, who thrives on hills - with a body type that says he shouldn't, and who now has more medals in his room than he ever could have dreamt.

Koda said, "You have that passion for something, you don't know why you like doing it, but you just keep on doing it. That's kind of like it is for me."

Jodi said, "First time he said he wanted to do the 50k, or wanted to do a marathon, like - 'do you know how many miles that is?' And for him it's always like, 'yeah, so what? No big deal.' I mean, he would love to do a 100k. He would love to do a 100 miler."

That's Koda Holeman. He's not like most runners, and he darn sure isn't like any kid you've ever met.

We should note that Koda's parents went to a pediatrician, to check on any health risks.

The doctor says there's no reason to believe this would have any negative effect, so long as Koda does the training, which he does, and always with his mom.

Koda also wrestles and plays soccer.

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