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Jared Chan Is 13 Going On 13.1

The teenager completed 13 half marathons in 2013.

The teenager completed 13 half marathons in 2013. 

For Jared Chan, 13 isn’t as unlucky as it sounds. Actually, it turned out to be his favorite number this year. This energetic California teenager ran a baker’s dozen of Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathons this year—one for each year he’s been alive. That’s 13 x 13.1 miles for the 13-year-old in 2013.

The charismatic seventh-grader polished off his Rock Idol status—a reference to the award given for completing 13 Rock ‘n’ Roll running events in one year—in Los Angeles on Oct. 27, crossing the line in 1:35:03 and dominating his age group by more than 10 minutes. However, that effort was still shy of his 1:32:50 personal best, set in San Jose just three weeks earlier.

Chan wrapped up his 2013 odyssey with a 14th race at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon on Nov. 17, clocking a quick 1:36:48 to place fourth in his age group and 310th out of almost 21,000 runners overall. “We took a family trip to Vegas last year, and I wanted to arrive at night so Jared could see the nighttime race,” explains Gary Chan, Jared’s father.

Jared’s half-marathon odyssey began with a simple father-son bet two years ago.

“My dad was like, ‘Let’s go to the middle school track,’ and he said, ‘For every lap you do, I will give you $10.’ So for inspiration, the more laps I could do, the more money I could win,” Jared remembers.

Gary, a self-proclaimed “obsessed” runner, expected fewer than five laps.

“He did about 12—I had to stop him because he was still smiling. He wasn’t even struggling!” Gary laughs.

Following Jared’s $120 win, the Sunnyvale, Calif., father-son duo ventured out for their first long-distance run together and, not far from the starting point of their run, stumbled upon mile 3 of the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon, just as the leaders blazed by them. “I want to see the whole thing,” Jared exclaimed after his father suggested only running eight miles alongside the race. Instead, the Chan clan wound up running about 10 miles next to the sea of bibs.

“I just like to be out there,” Jared says about his passion for running. “If I set a time goal for myself and I don’t make that, it’s too much pressure.”

So far, it’s been a great strategy.

“He’s never been injured, but he doesn’t run every single day,” Gary adds. “I’m a pretty ‘wimpy’ coach—I cut him a lot of slack when he needs it.”

A year prior to Jared winning the friendly wager and his accidental Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose exposure, his family got a sneak peek of this hidden potential when he participated in his first 5K.

“There was no volunteer on the course at the turnaround, so I ended up running the full 10K course instead of the 5K,” Jared remembers, adding that his only complaint crossing the finish line was that the course seemed a bit too long.

Jared also runs on his junior high school cross country and track teams. As a sixth-grader last spring, he ran a personal best of 5:31 in the 1,600 meters (roughly equivalent to a mile).

“He’s an anomaly at his school,” Gary laughs. “I follow results locally, and I see the local kids are getting more talented, but Jared has figured out his niche—he stands out by going farther and farther.”

Looking ahead at 2014, Jared hopes to run as many Rock ‘n’ Roll events as he can—including the Arizona event on Jan. 19 in Phoenix to acquire a Desert Double Down heavy medal, the award given to runners who run Las Vegas and Arizona in consecutive years.

Jared and Gary are also mentoring a 12-year-old friend from a local running club—another rising star who is racking up the miles. “She’s already completed two half marathons,” Gary says.

This piece first appeared in the December 2013 issue of Competitor magazine.