Jana and Elliot McKinney met in high school when she was a senior and he, a junior. The running joke, according to Elliot, is that between two proms and a wedding, the couple has danced exactly three times in the 20 years they’ve been together. Dancing aside, since they’ve been together, they’ve been anything but inactive.
“The funny thing is that I was actually voted most un-athletic in high school,” says Jana. “And I really didn’t become very active until I turned 30. I quit my job to stay home with the kids and started going to the gym.”
The kids are Jaley, 11, Jacob, 8, and Josh, 7, and in this family of five, there are bikers and runners. You could say their active lifestyle is a family affair.
Both Jana and Elliot graduated from West Texas A&M University with degrees in biology and accounting respectively. Jana went on to become a microbiologist at the Texas A&M Veterinary Lab while Elliot has been with Autoplex since graduation.
The two married in 1996 after Elliot graduated and within a few years started a family. After Josh was born and Jana left her job, she began taking spinning classes and dabbling with the idea of becoming a runner. Before long, she started teaching those spinning classes and officially joined the Road Runners group in Amarillo.
Elliot, on the other hand, prefers biking, which is a hobby that dates back to childhood and his BMX bike. After playing football in high school and spending several years in competitive power lifting, he returned to biking and now bikes competitively.
“A friend of mine goes to Red River a lot and asked me to go with him one time. I didn’t have a bike, so I grabbed the newspaper and found an ad and ended up buying a mountain bike for fifty bucks,” says Elliot. “That was ten years ago.”
Each of the kids has his or her own bike, and though Jana doesn’t prefer to ride competitively, they do enjoy bike rides as a family. They’re regulars at Palo Duro Canyon and Pitcher Pump.
“Amarillo really is a great place to ride. I mean, you can go to more popular places in Colorado and New Mexico, but there’s always so much traffic and it’s so busy,” says Elliot. “Here the drivers are so courteous. There are a lot of places to ride around here.”
It is a bit of an investment financially when it comes to gear and equipment, but Jana and Elliot believe the choice to be an active family is worth the price. They want to set a positive example for their children.
“It’s a long-term investment in our health,” says Elliot. “There is nothing more valuable.”
“And it’s neat to see the kids excited,” adds Jana. “We love the beauty around here. I know not everyone thinks Amarillo is beautiful, be we sure do. We also know that our body is a temple of God and we need to take care of it.”
The McKinneys are currently planning a trip to Deadwood, South Dakota, in June to participate in the Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon where both Jana and Jaley plan to run the half. Elliot, she jokes, will ride alongside on his bike to serve as waterboy.
by Jennie Treadway-Miller
Jennie was a columnist for the Chattanooga Times Free Press for eight years prior to moving to Amarillo in 2008. She is an avid reader, runner and writer.