By Rachal Messersmith
Weiser has ties to an ultramarathon runner, Angelina Juarez, who graduated from Weiser in 2007. She recently competed in The Hoka One One Rocky Raccoon 100, which is a 100-mile ultramarathon that occurs in Huntsville State Park, Texas. The 100 miles must be completed within 32 hours, and Angelina completed it within 30 hours! Angelina is an ambassador for Trails over Texas. She has always wanted to run a 100-mile race, but throughout motherhood and injuries, she has had to start training repeatedly, but she knew that the time was right now. She has been running competitively for over 10 years as an adult. Her goal, throughout her setbacks, was to complete this 100-mile race.
Angelina said, “I had known I was going to complete this race the minute I crossed the finish line of my first 50 miles, but I didn’t know the in-between, the unknown. Ultra running is all about being prepared for any curve ball while avoiding that dreaded wall. You learn much about yourself in the night, tired. It’s not unknown to doubt while running for so long, but it’s beautiful to feel that tiny flame still burning. I joked with my mom that this race is like giving birth; you can’t just quit halfway. I had almost given up on myself, and everyone would have been proud of my 83 miles, but like my mom said to me later, she knew if I didn’t finish this time, I’d be out there doing it again. I give a lot of myself to my family and my job, and I feel pretty worn thin sometimes. Running is for me, and I almost let myself be “okay” with not finishing. I had followed all my nutrition, water, and electrolyte intake, but I hadn’t believed in myself FOR myself when I was that deep into qualifying for The Western States.” During this 100-mile race, the runners are alone for the first 50 miles, then they can have a pacer, or a companion, join them for the last 50 miles. Angelina chose to do the first 60 miles solo. Once she hit the 60th mile, her first pacer, Todd Leonard, joined her. He ran to stay in shape for other sports (Brazilian Jui Jitsu.) He joined the Pasadena Texas Running Club (PTRC). He found that he enjoyed the camaraderie and fun of running 5K fun runs and is now focusing more on trail races and longer distances because of the physical challenge. You’ll see, one day, he will become an ultra trail runner. Thank you, Todd,” Angelina said. Edith Gonzales joined Angelina at mile 80. Angelina said, “Edith’s first marathon was in 1998, the same year she discovered trail races and found peace and joy running in Mother Nature. Her longest run was in February of 2021, which was 100k. She finds so much passion in running and helping others reach their goals, and she shares her experiences in their running journey. Thank you, Edith! I want to thank both Todd and Edith for keeping me warm in the 32-degree night and keeping me looking for the birds when the sun came up.” Angelina was joined by her wonderful husband, LJ, Fela Sandoval, Marcia Garcia, Roxy Sandoval, and her biggest fan, her mom, Colleen DeLeon, and her four children, Ellie, Adyn, Leo, and Landon.
Angelina summarized the last few miles of the race; she said, “There was no sleeping; there was a challenging 3 miles that took me an hour and a half to complete around 5 am. This was around mile 83 when I wanted to throw in the towel. Your mind can play games on you when you’re exhausted. I thought my math wasn’t adding up to complete this race in the designated time frame, and I was completely exhausted. I had a Pep talk with my crew about the status of what I was feeling and if I should continue. Tony, a race director, wanted to check on me. He came to me, and I had the biggest smile for some odd reason- and he talked to me about my nutrition and said I’m just tired, but I got this; kind of thing. When the sun comes up, your energy comes out of nowhere. I just need to keep moving. At the last 10 miles, I had asked my pacer to get me to the finish line in 30 hrs. We had 32 given, but I wanted to qualify for western states, and the sun shining was no lie- the biggest energy boost from being in the dark for what felt like forever. We were back to my 13 min mile pace. I believe even 12s the last 2.”
Upon completing this race, she qualified for The Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, based on a lottery. The run starts in Olympic Valley, California, and 100.2 miles later, ends in Auburn, California.
When Angelina was seven years old, she had severe asthma and would try to go running with a family friend, Jackson Waller, who would help her run down the block and back, and eventually, she would make it around the block. Her first competitive run was in 6th grade. Her mom, Colleen DeLeon, was a nervous wreck to let her run because of her asthma, but with promises of being careful and bringing her inhaler, she was allowed to compete in a fun run around Memorial Park. Ever since that race, she was hooked on competitive running. Through grade school, she was surrounded by a few good teachers, like Mr. Cobb, who was more of a mentor to her than just a coach, and Mr. Goto. (Angelina sends her condolences to Mr. Goto’s family.)
Angelina’s favorite race she has been in is a Ragnar Race through the Teton Mountains, The Grand Teton Relay. She ran this with Sarah Kleppin Scott, Malia Noah-Bumgarner, Nicole Miller, Kelly Cobb, and Amber Fricke Brown. They were all in Nicole’s 4Runner together, toughing it out. Angelina said, “that was an amazing group of women from our hometown that I have got to know better over the weekend.”
“Running has always been a therapy for me. To be in solitude and to learn about myself. That’s why I still run to this day. I am always learning and evolving, and that’s okay. My “why” is to always be an example for my children that everything they will ever need is within them. Whatever they choose to do with their lives, they create and break the walls within themselves, and all the rest is outside noise.” – Angelina Juarez.
In the past six months, Angelina started a program, being a Mental Performance and Running Coach. Her program is about breaking the barriers people have formed or conditioned in their minds throughout their lives that hinder us physically. Angelina is a huge advocate of mental health and, through physical motion, working through the stigma. She is currently in the works of an app being created!
Angelina gave some advice for those that want to start getting active and running, “I know this question is for running, but I want to bring awareness of how important physical activity is for mental health. This is my best example of getting into motion from postpartum after my 3rd child. Most people have heard that it takes 21 days to make a habit. Being depressed, some of those first days was just opening my front door and stepping outside. That’s it; take your time with the process. Every move matters. If you stay consistent with that, you may ask yourself, “why am I stepping outside- I might as well go for a walk.”
Angelina said,” It’s always the little things that matter most when achieving big goals. The saying for ultra running is to keep moving, one step at a time. I have a hashtag for anyone wanting to join in, it’s called #OneFullStride on Instagram, and my profile is @Anjo.Running if you’re interested in following my runs.”
She wants to remind everyone that everyone travels at their own speed and unique stride, but as long as we keep moving, we can all obtain our goals.
She would like to thank Living in the News for sharing this great goal with the community and all the community members who have helped her along the way.