Elite runner wants to help others keep moving


Jasmine Parniani was completely out of breath with her run when she stopped as the light turned red at a crosswalk in Corona del Mar. She looked at the fit runner standing next to her and asked, “East. does it ever get easier? “

The woman she had met at that red light was Kelly Leonard, her athletic physique testifying to her dedication. Leonard replied, “I do that on the side, I’m a running trainer.”

Leonard, a world-class runner, is used to meeting people and engaging in conversations during her runs. She remembers being asked, “How can I look like you?”

Brief encounters often end with an exchange of phone numbers – as happened with Parniani – after Leonard tells them she is a running coach and nutrition consultant.

“This is my life and I love it,” said the Newport Beach resident.

Leonard, originally from Southern California, was working at the family-owned Long Beach jewelry store in 2003 when the jeweler announced he had just run the LA Marathon.

“Then I bought my first pair of running shoes and ran the Long Beach Half Marathon and fell in love with running,” Leonard said. “Coach Victor Torres [the jeweler] is the reason I started running. He’s my mentor.

With at least 34 marathons to her name, including a handful of women’s top places in 5km to 30km races, she credits discipline, perseverance and consistency in making her an elite and stronger runner. His experiences have also enabled him to help others become better runners.

“I have been fortunate to have traveled the world, Tokyo, Berlin, Toronto to name a few, and to make lifelong friendships through running,” said Leonard. “The runners have the most special camaraderie I have ever encountered [and they are] stronger individuals through physical fitness.

Along with his personal coaching, Leonard this month launched a toll-free running group on Nextdoor called the Start Line. She said the idea grew out of her desire to create a way to give back to the community by inspiring others to plan group runs, walks and hikes.

“I created a group for like-minded people who want to get in better shape, talk about running, racing or athletics,” Leonard said. “To have a place where they talk about mutual interests and get better.”

She regularly posts encouraging quotes, motivational tips to keep the body moving, announcements about upcoming races and dating. Some of the commonalities in the articles are how to lose COVID-19 pounds, the health benefits of running, meeting other runners, and keeping each other motivated.

Parniani, who has been training with Leonard for four months now, used to think she wasn’t cut out to be a long distance runner.

“I realized my bad attitude towards long-distance running was self-taught,” said Parniani, who moved from Newport Beach to LA two weeks ago but says she won’t let the distance keep her from. train with Leonard.

Running coach Kelly Leonard, left, with client Jasmine Parniani stand together at Lookout Point in Corona del Mar ahead of their 5-mile run to Crystal Cove.

(Courtesy of Susan Hoffman)

“I changed my mind after meeting Kelly,” Parniani said. “She’s so patient, so good with little advice that makes a big impact. She taught me the little things like starting slowly and the importance of a warm-up to maintain a long distance pace.

“Kelly is a great cheerleader,” Parniani said. “She always emphasizes all the things I do well at, like just showing up and pushing me towards smaller, manageable goals.”

Leonard, who earned a certification in nutrition, recognizes that what people eat is essential to staying in shape. She helped Parniani shed some light on snacks before and during runs to stay fueled without feeling nauseous.

“I don’t believe in diets,” Leonard said. “I am focused on making good, healthy lifestyle choices.”

Racing coach Kelly Leonard.

Kelly Leonard prepares to meet her client at Lookout Point in Corona del Mar for a 5 mile run to Crystal Cove.

(Courtesy of Susan Hoffman)

Leonard has even taken customers shopping to show them how to read nutrition labels, teach them the difference between wild and farmed salmon, steer them away from processed and packaged foods and sugar in exchange for fruits and vegetables.

“It is about food for the soul, not about depriving yourself,” she said.

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