Why I Run: An Essay from a Marathon Maniac, Ultramarathoner and 50 States Club Member

“Why do I run?” I ask myself this same question repeatedly, especially when I am ready to give up while I am running a race. But upon crossing the finish line, my next question to myself is, “Where’s my next race?”

I started running 25 years ago when I met my partner, who is an avid runner. But I didn’t get serious about it at the time. First of all, I was not into sports in any sense of the word. Secondly, I disliked running because I could not catch up with my partner and I got tired easily. So why do I run? Being a long-distance runner, I will make my story long!

The Journey from Grade School to 50th Birthday

Jose Maria H. Gabriel at the TCS New York City Marathon | Racertrips LLC
Gaby at his first TCS New York City Marathon. He ran it for a second time this year.

I am an only child and was overly protected by my Catholic Mother and my Military Officer Father. I went to Catholic school, and even under the watchful eyes of the priests and nuns, I was bullied because I was short and skinny and was called a weakling. At the time, I detested every form of sports activities, and being in an all-boys school, there were plenty of sports. I could not throw a tennis ball or, what’s more, a basketball. During those days, I would go home hurting from all the taunting and name calling, and I was so miserable.

Okay, let me fast forward now. I went to college and to medical school. I came to the United States, and while I was in practice as a Gastrointestinal Pathologist, I was challenged to run a 5K at the hospital where I was working. This was my turning point as a runner. In 2011,  I turned 50 and decided to do something different to celebrate this milestone. I registered and trained for my first marathon, which was the Marathon du Medoc in Bordeaux, France, 400 miles south of Paris.

During the race, I cramped twice and was going to drop out. But a friend of mine reminded me that flying all the way from Chicago to Bordeaux and not even getting a medal was such a waste. That did it. I ran, and I beat the cut-off time of 5:30! I was so proud to earn my first medal. At that time I thought that was my first and last marathon.

One and Done? Not this Marathoner

But in 2013, I ran my first Chicago Marathon. I enjoyed the the race and decided to run it again in 2014. During the race, I met another runner, who later became my running buddy. We decided to run the Naperville Marathon the following weekend. The weekend after that, I ran in Middleton, WI. Then 2 weeks later, I ran my first ultra, a 50K (30 miles) race just outside of Chicago. This was the first ultra sponsored by Arctic Frog, with race director and soon-to-be-friend Rey Letada. I knew right there and then that I was hooked.

With all these races in such a short period of time, I qualified and earned my two stars with Marathon Maniacs. This is an international running group that one needs to qualify to become a member. Yes, three marathons and one ultramarathon in 5 weeks was more than enough to qualify!

To date, I have finished a total of 64 marathons and 4 ultras. Along the way, I also qualified to be a member of the 50 States Marathon Club. I am on my 39th state with plans of completing all 50 states this year, with Honolulu, Hawaii being my 50th state.

What Does the Future Hold

What else is in store for me? This year, I’m going to wrap up with marathons in Tulsa, OK and Honolulu. I may add one more to make it a total of 20 marathons completed this year.

I’m also working on completing all six World Marathon Majors next year. Having run Berlin, Chicago (sixth time in 2018), New York (second time in 2018), and London, I plan on completing all six with Boston and Tokyo set for 2019. My journey does not end here. I have five more continents to run in, and the race in Tulsa will be state number 5 for my second round of running all 50 states. Will that be it? Maybe. Maybe not.

So going back to the question, “Why do I run?” In my journey as a marathoner, it has been an adventure and a thrill to see our beautiful country in a different perspective. But the best part of running is the solitude of being alone while I am training and while I am racing. Running has become my “zen,” my peaceful space and my form of meditation. In addition, being an avid cook and a foodie, running keeps me fit and healthy. Furthermore, I met some of my best friends through my races all over the country and the world. Now, you all know why I run.

Why Do You Run? If you would like to share your story with the Racertrips™ community, email us to find out how.

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1 Comment

  1. M Jean G ManaloNovember 30, 2018

    Amazing Dr. Gaby! I am a fan!
    You have come along way from that little boy who got bullied for being small and skinny to being an accomplished Dr. and a very good runner in the the best sport ever to be in … for you are seeing the world as you go and enjoying life in its totality.
    God speed in your future running Dr.
    Break a leg means good luck but I’d rather say,
    God bless you more marathons to run …
    with friendships and love to gain along the way! ❤️


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