Thursday October 05, 2017
Just try to keep up with Gisela Veve. A dynamo on land and water, she is a woman who lives her mantra, “Never stop moving. Never say I can’t. It is never too late. Go, go, go!” Veve recently returned from Germany where, on September 24, she ran in the Berlin Marathon, one of six marathons comprising the Abbott World Marathon Majors. Berlin takes its place alongside the largest and most renowned marathons in the world.
A competitor at heart, Veve describes running as “my time.” She says, “It’s a personal challenge, one that is only up to me. One that I have to motivate myself. I turn on the music and I just go. I turn left or right at a moment’s notice. It’s mental freedom, but also mental toughness. It tests you mentally and physically. Not quitting is the reward.”
And not quitting is just what Veve did in Berlin, although she had a powerful reason to do so. It was with a heavy heart Veve traveled to Germany’s capital to begin with, as her birthplace, the island of Puerto Rico, where she grew up to the age of 17, was experiencing catastrophic devastation due to Hurricane Maria.
“I lost all my focus as I didn’t hear from my family before the race, I actually haven’t heard yet,” said Veve the Wednesday after her race. Describing herself as heart broken, she reports, “I got unfocused and dehydrated. I passed out on mile four and they wanted me to get off the course.”
With the Puerto Rican flag hand drawn on her racing bib, along with “#puertoricostrong,” Veve says, “I had to do it. Not finishing was going to be much harder than the run itself. I think the look on my face and the tears in my eyes had a clear message.” So she ran. After all, she had two goals. The first was already part of Veve’s life, completing all of the Abbott World Marathon Majors. But it was the second goal, “I was running for everyone on my island,” was the one that lit a fire deep within. With so many family and friends in harm’s way, Veve, who was helpless in even knowing how everyone was, ran a race in honor of those she loved. “It was a mission. It was about doing something when I was feeling helpless with people suffering. My suffering couldn’t be compared to what they were going through.”
True to her word, Veve finished the Berlin Marathon, which leaves the determined athlete with three marathons ahead in order to complete her goal. They are Tokyo, London, and Boston. Quite an accomplishment for someone who began running in 2008 at Burlington’s FirstRun 5K. By 2009, she ran the full Vermont City Marathon. “That was the beginning of something fun,” says Veve. “For years I was a spectator watching and cheering my friends, thinking wow, maybe I could do this one day. Now, I have run 15 halves and four full marathons, and countless five and 10Ks.”
More miles lie ahead as she waits for acceptance into the next marathon. “The majors are incredibly hard to get in. Over 300,000 people apply, only 40,000, give and take, depending on the race, get in. I need to get in through a lottery. I just got rejected for Tokyo 2018, I am going to hear at the beginning of October if I made it to London 2018.” The indomitable Veve adds, “If I don’t, I try again and again until I am in.” The perfect sentiment from a woman who believes it is never too late to start anything.
Meanwhile, Veve reported she finally heard from family members in Puerto Rico, Friday, September 29. She wrote, “They are well. No water, no electricity, low in food, low in cash, no banks, no gasoline, no electricity in the hospital, no trees, and ruined personal property - but alive.”
SOURCE: Carole Vasta Folley, The Other Paper