PILSEN — When most of the city is asleep at 4 a.m., Edna Jackeline Vazquez Núñez is already hitting the pavement — when else would she have time to train for a 100-mile race?
By day, Vazquez is a certified running coach and boxing instructor at her Pilsen gym, Vive Healthy Sport and Nutrition at 965 W. 18th St. On weekends, she’s training on trails in Illinois and Wisconsin, preparing for her next ultramarathon.
Generally, an ultramarathon is any long-distance running race longer than a traditional marathon of 26.2 miles or about 42 kilometers. Vazquez said she’s run a variety of races, from a 50K to 100 miles.
But Vazquez’s biggest triumph was in 2016 when she became the first Mexican-American to complete The 4 Deserts Ultramarathon Series, a set of four 250-kilometer races in seven days in some of the world’s most grueling deserts: the Atacama in Chile, the Gobi in Mongolia, the Namib in Namibia and the Last Desert in Antarctica.
Vazquez wrote about her days running in the deserts and the challenges she’s faced as a immigrant woman and business owner in her 2018 book Las carreras de mi vida, for which she won the International Latino Book Award in two categories — Best First Spanish Language Book and Best Women’s Issues Book.
Vazquez wrote the book in Spanish, but she said she later decided to write an English version so even more people could read it. The English version — The Races of My Life — launched last month and is now available for purchase.
“I said, ‘I have to write it all,'” Vazquez said. “Someone in my society, in my community has to read my story, just for the intention that seeing that it’s possible to reach anything in life, even if you don’t have shoes, even if you don’t come from financial support. I think it’s important to dream bigger.”
Vazquez was born and raised in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, and ran her first ultramarathon at 17 years old. Once she realized what her body was capable of, she said she was hooked on the super-endurance sport.
“I think the strength that runnings provides me pretty much is applicable for any other area because you can’t stop, like you have work, you have goals. … So that same thing is applicable in work and study and your personal life. It’s how I manage my life with discipline,” Vazquez said.
Following her first ultramarathon in Mexico, Vazquez said she competed in races around the world.
“I was able to travel the world through my shoes,” Vazquez said.
Vazquez said she isn’t from a family of athletes, but rather a middle-class Mexican family that taught her to work hard at what she wants and be resourceful.
The technology available to runners now wasn’t an option when Vazquez started running in the late 90s, especially not at an amateur level, she said. Today, things like a GPS watch can help runners track distances and paces. But when Vazquez was first training for races in Mexico, she had to improvise.
Vazquez said she would ask her dad to drive a particular route around their home and track the mileage, and that was how she knew she was running the correct distance for her training.
Vazquez settled in the Chicago area in 2005 and opened her fitness studio Vive in Pilsen in 2018, wanting to share her passion for being active and healthy living with the community.
“I think my mission in this life is helping others to reach their own maximum growth,” Vazquez said.
Vive Healthy has a variety of classes and membership levels for patrons, ranging from one-on-one personal training sessions to lively group High Intensity Interval Training classes.
People can also join the Running Club Membership, which includes group runs and individualized training for races like the Chicago Marathon — the one Chicago race Vazquez pledges to run every year.
You can learn more about Vive’s classes and training here.
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