Javier Ceja said running began as a way to get in shape for the high school soccer season.
But soccer has been mostly left in the dust.
“A friend of mine said, ‘You should probably go out for track,’ ” he said. “And I said, ‘There’s no way you're going to get me to put on short shorts and run loops around the track.’ ”
But he’s running as strong as ever.
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Ceja, of Great Bend, made it a perfect three for three in River Run titles, capturing the overall 10K championship Saturday in 32 minutes, 14 seconds. He also won the title in 2013 and 2014.
He said running eventually won him over in high school, and it has played a key role in his life from then on.
“I just enjoy competing with myself and with others,” Ceja said. “For some reason, I thought I’d hate it, but I’ve found it to be pretty satisfying and pretty worthwhile. The longer I was in the sport, the more I learned to enjoy it. I met my wife (Sharon) through running, too.”
Sharon Ceja is from Olpe and attended Wichita State.
“She ran at WSU, and we currently both run for the Kansas City Smoke, which is a post-collegiate team,” Javier said. “I’ve met most of my best friends through running, so it’s been very rewarding and awesome to be a part of this community.”
A California transplant, Ceja said he has found the Kansas climate appealing as a runner.
“I’ve always said that I grew up in California, but the Kansas weather has hardened me,” he said. “One week it’s 40 degrees, the next week it’s 60, then the week after that it’s like 20 degrees and it’s hailing, so it definitely has all the elements that you can have on race day. It kind of just teaches you to be tough, control the controllables, and just running hard on race day.”
Ceja, who turned 29 last week, recently coached runners at Barton County Community College but has turned his focus recently to completing his education through Fort Hays State.
Ceja, who said he also likes competing in the Prairie Fire race series in addition to the River Run, said he probably will seek a fourth title next year.
“It’s just a fun event, and we try to be a part of it any time we can,” he said.