Around The Way Girl: Xiomara Beltran

The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is the pinnacle of achievement for everyday runners, athletes, and goal-setters. Every October, runners from all 50 states and more than 100 countries set out to accomplish a personal dream by reaching the finish line in Grant Park. On marathon day the city is literally glowing with positivity. 45,000 runners are encouraged all over the city by hundreds of thousands of spectators. There are tears and cheers as every runner crosses the finish line after the 26th mile.

In college, I (Ariel) took a Special Events and Promotions class. One of the assignments was to volunteer at the marathon. All assignments prior to the marathon were pretty boring: putting together runner packers, stringing all different types of badges, as well as looking at stats on how great The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is for the city (In 2013 over $250 million was generated into the economy from the marathon alone).

Course map from last year's marathon
Course map from last year’s marathon

The day of the marathon was completely different. At 5:00 a.m. all volunteers had to meet at the starting line to receive their badges, that I strung together, as well as Nike track jackets. My job was simple: hold the ribbon in corral F until it was time for the runners to begin the marathon. At first I was angry–I was cold,tired, and really trying to figure out if my professor would know if I dipped. When my corral started to fill up with runners it was completely different! People of all different ages, races, and backgrounds were together in this single moment to accomplish a lifelong dream.  The adrenaline almost made me want to run with them! When they took off at the starting line I started to cry. It was a weird kind of cry though, and I don’t know why I did. I kept that Nike track jacket until last month. It was the same jacket many of the runners got, so for the last two years, I would wear it around while running errands and people would give me a look like, “Oh what a bad ass, she ran the marathon.”

I was a fraud, I know. So, I decided to give it to a good friend and co-worker of mine who was actually training for the marathon this year. Meet Xiomara (pronounced Zee-oh-Mara, for you non-Mexicans) Beltran, aka Z. A 23 year old, Humboldt Park native, who decided five months ago that she was going to run her first marathon. About six months prior to her training she was getting back in shape with the latest fitness trend, Crossfit, which she eventually had to quit since it was getting in the way of her marathon training.

1. What made you want to sign up for the marathon?

It was originally on my personal bucket list. I also wanted to do it at a time when I was in good shape.  The year prior to the marathon I was doing Crossfit 2-3 times a week–seemed like the perfect time!

2. What was training like? Was there ever a time when you wanted to quit?

In the beginning it was easy because I only had to run short distances, but the last two months really sucked.  I had to complete long runs on the average of 10-20 miles multiple times a week. Training often felt like a second job. Once you start running the long distances you really have to clear 2-4 hours out of your day to run. There were times I wanted to go out, but knew I couldn’t because I had to run the next day. Two months prior to the marathon I injured my foot, which slowed down my training.

3. How did you stay motivated on your runs?

Motivation came from trying to prove to myself that I could finish this. I also wanted to prove to others that I can finish this. I think a lot of people doubted me at first, then once I proved I could run 20 miles, it was more of a question, why? I constantly kept getting asked why I was doing this.

4. Where is your favorite place in the city to run?

My favorite place was running laps around Humboldt park.  I felt comfortable there since there wasn’t a lot of foot traffic and the park is so big I was able to cover a couple miles per lap. Sometimes the park drunks would cheer me on, which believe it or not was encouraging.


5. How did you feel a week before the race? Night before? Day of?

I was really nervous and scared that I wouldn’t be able to finish.  Two weeks prior to the marathon I had to stop running because of my foot injury. I couldn’t sleep the night before. I think I got an hour of sleep. The day of I was still nervous about my foot, however, seeing all different types of people, young, old, not in the best shape, and foreign, really  got me excited.

Xiomara at the pre-race packet pick up and post race with her sister.
Xiomara at the pre-race packet pick up and post race with her sister.

6. What kind of music is in your headphones for the training/running?

I had a variety of  music, including electronic dance music, indie-rock, and 90’s alternative.  I enjoyed running to Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foster the People, Cage the Elephant, and Beyoncé.

7. What were some of the emotions going through your head as you were running the marathon?

It was a mix between I hate running and don’t cry,  you have to finish– that was all that was going through my head.  I think running through Pilsen helped me out a lot. By that time you’re more than halfway done with the marathon. Everybody in the neighborhood was blaring banda music, passing out tacos, and really cheering you on. I almost wanted to stop and join the spectators- but I was there to complete a marathon not eat tacos.

8. Did you meet any cool people while running?

I met a 70 year old lady running by herself. This wasn’t her first marathon either! She inspired me and motivated me to keep running and to make it to the finish line. At the expo (two days before the marathon runners have to pick up their bibs from McCormick Place–it is another event in itself) I met so many foreigners from Mexico, Colombia, and Spain. It was really cool that people in other countries come here to do this. I saw some people I knew, like Mary (co-worker) and I knew a couple of other people running the marathon, but I was totally in my zone that I didn’t want to look for them. My mom and sister cheered me on.

9. How did you feel when you crossed the finish line? What was your time?

I was so happy, I even maybe started crying a little. At this point I was in so much pain. I wanted to find my mom, sit down and have a beer!  I actually grabbed a beer and couldn’t even drink it. I went to go eat with my family instead. I completed the marathon in 5 hours and 20 minutes with the pace of 12:17 mile (in order to participate in the marathon you have to run 15 minutes per mile).

10. Are the  any more marathons in your future?

Possibly 1 more. I can for sure do some half marathons.

11. What advice would you give people trying to run their first marathon?

Make sure you are committed! There are days when you don’t want to run, but have to push through it. The earlier you can start training, the better. Lastly, running a marathon isn’t about speed at first. Think about increasing your distance with every run, don’t think about running fast.

Post Race with her Medal
Post Race with her Medal

12. What’s your favorite thing about Chicago?

It’s a diverse city and there are many neighborhoods to run through! I also love the food and music. I try to attend multiple music festivals a year.



P.S. we would love to send a shout out to previous Around the Way Girl, Vicky, who also completed the Marathon on Sunday.

{Know an Around The Way Girl we need to to get in touch with? Let us know in the comment section below!}

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