TEANECK, N.J. — Ask Teaneck's Wil Tejada about his accomplishments as a marathon-running coach and he'll turn the conversation around to his athletes.
He'll tell you about his wife, who after a freak accident asked him to ease her back into running with a half-marathon. They both finished — no injuries.
He'll tell you about Jackie, who was not accepted by other running groups in the area because they thought she'd be too slow. She finished the New York City marathon — no injuries.
Ask Tejada what fitness has added to his life and he'll tell you — "It gave me everything."
Starting with a business: Wilpower Fitness , which helped him buy the Teaneck house where he raised his 10-year-old son.
It gave him a community: the dozens of athletes who joined his team through word of mouth — it's like one, big extended family.
It gave Tejada a path — and he says he's in it for the long haul.
"It's very emotional," said Tejada, who began training friends for fun just after he discovered running 10 years ago.
"What makes you decide to get fit is something emotional. Like wanting to hike an amazing mountain — you need to get in shape.
"We have people who you think would never run a marathon or complete it because they have never been that physical before."
But they do, because Tejada and his team together have created a "New Running Culture."
And it starts with giving back.
No matter if someone has a leaky roof or simply needs encouragement on the course, Tejada stresses that the first step to completing a marathon is creating a circle of trust.
"That's what we're successful at," he said. "We get these people to bond and then when we run the course, I tell them to visualize themselves running the marathon. Then when they do, they'll remember who they were with."
What Tejada won't do is take credit for any of his athlete's successes, even though he was their first point of contact at Wilpower Fitness.
"The team itself helps change each other’s lives," he said. "It doesn’t stop when the running stops."