Nadia Ruiz may have started out small, but with no less than 100 marathons under her belt at 29 years old, she’s proof that being little doesn’t mean you can’t live big. Her passion for pushing hard during races spills over into life; her personal motto is, “Be healthy, be happy, be free.”
Her story shows that our passions will find us. Read more in our Q & A with Nadia:
1. Can you tell us a bit about your running history? When did you start?
“Running fell upon me by accident. In middle school, I was the top of my class and puberty came very late. I was not part of the ‘in’ crowd according to middle school peer standards. Trying to avoid the bullying, my mom put me into community boxing. Without a trace of sports before, I was excited to try something new. The first day, the coach said, ‘Okay Nadia, go run around the park five times for warm up.’ I did, and I didn't stop to walk once. I came back and saw the funny look on my coach’s face. I completed three years of boxing, the bullying stopped, and the spark to learn how to be tough was born, because in the ring, you are either ready to hit or get hit.
Once high school started, I was still little, as puberty had not set in—little but tough. I was a late bloomer. My sister encouraged me to try out for the cross country team. Turns out on our first dual meet, I was first [place] female for our high school team.
Winning in middle school planted a seed to be tough in the ring. In high school, it planted a seed to be hungry—hungry to be better. I learned early on that the more I aimed to do my best, the more I learned about myself in the process. It was the process of training, sacrificing going out with friends, aiming to eat right, and balancing my AP and honors classes while aiming to be my best that rewarded me the most. When I ran, I felt free. I felt alive. And I still do. The first year I started running, I decided to do my first marathon. Once again, the seed was planted for a passion to be born.”
2. When did you decide to start incorporating further distances?
“During my first year of running competitively, they coached us to always aim for our best. Period. There was no playtime in competition. Play was pushing. Play was going after the competition. Play was aiming for your best. We learned as athletes that if we didn't push for our best, then what purpose do our actions serve? I then realized this applied to life. [If] we just aim to live in the monotony of going through the motions, how can we gain the most of life? It's when we go after more and when we go after our best that we can gain the most.
So during my first year of running, I decided I would run my first marathon at the 1999 LA Marathon. I announced it to my parents, and my father said, ‘Well, if my daughter is doing it, then I will too.’ I had lots of speed training under me from cross country for the three mile distance. However, I never ran more than six miles. My father and I toed the marathon start line in trainers, cotton gear, and one goal: to reach the finish line no matter what, together. By mile 12, I hit a hard wall. [With] no long distance training, my legs begged to stop. I cried and stopped under the mile 12 arch. My dad came back for me and said in Spanish, ‘Nadia, you can give up now and forever live with giving up, or you can give it all you have. Your mind will get you there. The power of the mind will get you anywhere.’
My legs screamed every step and every mile to the finish. When we arrived at the finish line, my dad grabbed my hand and raised it in the air as we crossed together. ‘See Cachito, I told you, you could do it.’ A marathoner was born.”
3. What was it about that challenge that intrigued you?
“In marathon it is the distance that requires endurance, speed, patience, and grit. I respect all distances but something about the marathon has become very special to me since 1999.”
4. What is it about trail running that you fell in love with?
“Trail and ultra-running has seen a spike in popularity and participation in recent years. Many thought I had become a trail runner recently; however, that is far from the truth. I actually started out as a trail runner 16 years ago when I first started running. For cross country, it was speed workouts during the week on the track and hills on the weekend. We would head to the trails and power up the hills looking for every intense burn we could get. All week I would look forward to our weekend trail run. I would train with my team, [then] I began taking my parents and siblings out to the trails to share the outdoors with me. I love open space. I love the sense of freedom and that almost everything stands still around you as you hear your breath run across the trails. Trail running is where my love of running grew.”
5. Do you have a favorite race memory?
“My first marathon with my dad in 1999, the LA Marathon, and my first Ironman distance triathlon in 2011—my entire family was there at the finish line to support me reaching this childhood goal of mine.”
6. What do you love about the running community?
“Runners get runners. We love to run, we love to talk about it, we look forward to our next run, and we simply know that running allows us to temporarily put a pause on the hassles in life and just go be. Consequently, runners become very supportive of other runners, helping push them to their goals and encouraging others to live their dreams. How we cope with the challenges of running becomes analogous to how we cope with life. Runners get that.”
7. Tell me a bit about how you found Orange Mud's products and why you like them.
“The creator of Orange Mud, Josh Sprague, introduced himself to me at the finish line of a local ultra-race. He told me his story and how his products came into production, and I was curious to try the new features. I LOVE the Orange Mud transition towel. I use it daily after my swim training, and I use it every time after a triathlon. Having the clip on the towel is so convenient and useful—no more accidentally dropping the towel in public. I also love the single and double barrel hydration packs. They're comfortable, spacious for storage, and easy to clean. My dad and little brother who trail run as well have also become huge fans.”
8. Is there any other information you’d like to share?
“For anyone looking to start running, go longer, get faster, do their first triathlon, or train for their first Ironman, I say do it. Choose what makes you happy and aim for your best in whatever you do. No distance is easy, but take pride in your distance. Take pride in your journey because the harder it is, the more you learn and the more you gain from it.”