I ran 2 blocks and I was already panting like a dog, with my tongue out, hands on the waist, heart pumping, and me gasping for more oxygen into my 30+ yr old lungs. I was sure I was fainting. I thought running was going to be easy and it was supposed to be my new exercise regimen. I gave up the day’s quota of watching the telly, in my LAZ-Boy, eating the saltiest potato chips plus some Tillamook ice cream on the side. Instead I went out for a run – two blocks, not even a quarter mile. That was a year ago. If I were to say that I am now an inspirational ultra marathoner like Mymy Suajico-Santiago, that would have been an incredible story.
Meet the Ultra Marathoner
Mymy Suajico-Santiago, is a mother of two, living in Virginia. Born and raised in Bacolod City, a true Ilongga, she has a knack for cooking gastronomic menus. She achieved a highly respectable status as a Filipina ultra marathoner, and deservingly so. Many have tried and many have failed to complete an ultra marathon challenge. A marathon is a 26.2 mile run. An ultra marathon is a different story. It goes way beyond the 26.2 mile run, the popular ultra marathons constitute a 50K runs and 50 mile runs. Your body already takes a beating by running 26.2 miles, and then you push your body further. Ultra marathons are most often trail runs. Considering an elevation factor, it will surely exercise your other muscle groups – this is another beating.
Mymy has accomplished a significant number of marathons and ultra marathons. One of them was the 50 miler Endurance Challenge in DC as sponsored by the North Face. Fifty miles is like running from San Jose to San Francisco downtown but with a jungle in between. This 50 mile race is dangerous. Mymy shares, “I’ve seen a lot of runners collapsed and fractured some body parts. I crossed the finish line and I cried, not because I did it, but because I was in one piece. I survived the nasty cut on the knee, I stumbled on a fallen tree, I lost 4 toenails (which is normal in the ultra-world). I nipped my toenails out from the roots and they grew back.” She finished victoriously in 12 hours 41 minutes.
Running as Cure
When asked how running changed her life, Mymy says, “It hauled me out from my deep affair with alcohol. I used to drink heavily daily, like a bottle of 375ml rum on the rocks all for myself, or 2 bottles of wine in a day.” She found solace and relaxation in running and had totally given up drinking. Mymy says, “Once a person starts on the road to well-being, everything is a domino effect. As I witnessed my body changing, my physique transforming, my mentality clearing, I became aware of my inner strength.” Looking back, she realized why she resorted to alcohol. She is genetically hyper active, her system was looking for an outlet to put all that excess energy. Alcohol being a downer, calmed her but with a price. She channeled her excess energy to running, eating right, and having a positive outlook.
Why She Runs
Mymy goes out and run for different reasons. She says, “Mostly, I just want to feel the wind on my face…It is the most relaxing activity. Mind and body unite in cadence. It pumps out all the stress and anxieties and I come home refreshed and renewed.”
How to Keep Running
Apparently, to keep on running is another story, it requires persistence, discipline and a generous dash of inspiration. Living in Virginia, the snow, heat, rain or storm is not an excuse for Mymy, unless the weather is classified as hazardous. “I just got to step out. Once I’m out, everything just follows.” Mymy says, “To keep on running, you lace up and step out the door. No alibis – not your age, not the weather, not your children, nor your crazy schedule. It is actually easy when excuse is no longer an option.”
For a woman that has more running shoes than dress shoes, Mymy prefers Mizuno – the wave rider, wave inspire and wave elixir. She found the Mizuno series respond perfectly for her build and stride. Her Adidas collection and Saucony share the rack space. For trails, she uses the Salomon because it has never given her blisters even in long distances. She wears Under Armour for function, and Nike and Adidas for fashion; C9 for affordable day-to-day training. Her favorite running gear is the Sony wireless Walkman. For a runner’s fashion advice, “My best running wears are the clothes and gadgets that become one with my body. ”
Running while Pregnant
It is almost unfathomable for non-runners to hear that a pregnant woman runs regularly. It will be hard for a fellow caring woman to allow her daughter, sister, family member or friend to run while pregnant. Mymy, as an athlete, was running all the way from her first trimester, to the last week of her pregnancy. She even joined races during the time. After 9 months, she gave birth to a healthy bouncing baby boy.
New Running Buddy
She started stroller running with her 6-week old baby and both of them haven’t stopped running since. She got the BOB Ironman stroller, which had proven to be a fulfilling investment. Mymy says, “It was recommended to me by a runner friend in Chicago who was stroller running with his 2 children, and it proved to be worth it.” The stroller is sturdy, lightweight, with built-in shocks, great breaks and accessories for winter and sun shield for summer. Mymy says, “Before the baby I used to follow a rigid scientific training but I had to let go to make way for spontaneity when he came along. Running ceased to be my “me” time, and has become a mother and child activity.”
Running became a daily adventure for Mymy and her little running buddy. They would discover trails and paths. Instead of driving, they run to the grocery, and do errands on his running stroller regularly. Mymy says, “It’s a joyride from him, a quiet moment with me where he too could see and experience nature. ” Fast forward, her baby is now a toddler. She has ran and exposed him to every element – rain, snow and storm at very calculated risk. A meticulous mom, wanting always the best for her baby, she always preps the stroller with whatever climate shield the season requires. To her delight, her little running buddy does not mind running under the rain or snow, but he is not too keen of the summer sun and is terrified of the thunder clouds. Mymy says, “I am glad too that he has learned to persist and thrive under challenging conditions.”
How to Start Running
Mymy wants to inspire women who want to take up running as a new hobby or exercise, but do not have the motivation. Mymy says, “Inspiration should come from within. You are responsible to fuel your own fire. Find happiness in what you do, recognize how it benefits you and always always always celebrate your achievement – no matter how trivial. That’s how you own up to yourself what you are capable of. Just tie your laces and go out the door, and jog.”
A Runner’s High
Aside from experiencing the runner’s high, a state of being euphoric after continually pushing limits, Mymy finds many reasons to run – whether it’s to burn yesterday’s extra calories; to feel the snow icing her eyelashes; to get the much needed tan in the summer; or to cry her woes on the road that only the rain could see. Mymy says, “Life after all is full of surprises. You just have to keep on running and chase your dreams. If you can not catch them, at least you are moving forward!”
Written by: Phoebe Aviles. She is a technology professional in Silicon Valley, a traveller and a founder of World Urbanista.