Nadia Ruiz ran her first marathon at the age of 14, beginning a stretch of 14 years of racing 26.2 miles that culminated in her record-setting 100th marathon in San Francisco on Sunday.
Ruiz ran both her first and most recent marathons with her father, who she credits for getting her through the first one. Before her initial marathon, her longest training run was 6 miles.
“He told me, ‘You can do it, you can do it,’” she told Runner’s World. “I thought, ‘I can’t let him down.’ We took walk breaks … My dad taught me the power of mental strength that day.”
Ruiz doesn’t come from a running background; her family moved to the United States from Ecuador just before she was born. But her enthusiasm for distance running has been infectious: everyone in her family has run a marathon, and her father has run 49.
“The more I did, the more my family exercised,” she said. “It’s a positive feedback system. They supported me, but as I was reaching my goals, I was encouraging my family to be healthy.”
“It was an arbitrary goal,” she said. “But then I started looking to see if there was a record and came across the Guinness world record and I realized that if I ran between 15 and 20 marathons a year, I could break it way before 30.”
The current Guinness record-holder is a British woman who completed her 100th marathon at age 34. Others may have accomplished the feat as well, but haven’t applied for the official Guinness record.
Next up, she’s hoping to run a sub 3-hour marathon; she’s already run 3:15. And, she’s hoping others will find inspiration from her record.
“I teach at an inner city school and lots of kids think that because they come from an immigrant family or a poor family, they can’t go for such goals,” said Ruiz, who teaches high-school biology in Los Angeles. “I want to show them anything can be done no matter what their background.”