Maria finishing the Boston Marathon

Marathon Monday: "Each run is a chance to challenge myself."

By: Maria Cabanas

I joined the Navy when I was 17. My parents had to sign my papers since I was underage, and I left for boot camp after graduating high school.  I enlisted for rescue swimming, but realized that my heart wasn’t in it once I was in training. I was looking for reasons to quit, fall out, give up. The training and level that I needed to push myself on land and in water was more than I wanted to deal with. I was always getting written up for being the slowest runner, even though that was one of the few things I always tried my best to do.

I specifically remember one run: I had fallen behind everyone else, and an instructor was running next to me. I was in so much discomfort from cramps and out of breath that I stopped running.  He asked, “Are you going to pass out? Are you going to die?” To which I replied, no, and he yelled at me to keep going.  That was my first groundbreaking experience with mind over body when it came to pushing my limits. 

After I left rescue swimmer school, I went to military police training — a job that I would do for the next seven years.  Being a female in a male dominant job definitely helped me push myself to new levels and hold my own. I wanted to be respected, and I wanted my peers to know that they could trust me and that I had their back. The Navy helped forge an attitude and mindset within me of, “Get the job done, don’t give up.”

Six months before I was honorably discharged from the Navy, my older sister told me that I should run the Boston Marathon. Even though I didn’t run more than a 5k for fitness purposes, the competitive person and fighter that I had become was ready to take on and accomplish this new goal.  Running became very therapeutic for me, especially during my last six months of being enlisted, because it allowed me to think clearly about life, and challenge my mind and body in productive ways. 

For me, running became a bridge between the military and civilian life.

This passion for running led to my first marathon in April 2016, and it felt amazing. I didn’t experience hitting the wall, cramping, or exhaustion, although many runners told me that I probably would, especially at my first marathon.  After that race, I ran three other marathons in 2016, and felt all of those symptoms. The worst experience I had was severe cramps in my thighs during the MDI Marathon in Maine. In an effort to keep going, I continued to run bent over while massaging my thighs.  After that race, I wondered if there was something wrong with my diet leading up to the event, or if I just had to deal with cramps as a natural part of running. So, I started on a journey to figure out what was going on with my body.

I am diagnosed with achalasia, a condition where the esophageal muscles are weak and do not properly pass food down to my stomach. Due to this, I deal with severe acid reflux, discomfort while eating, and regurgitation. I had a Heller Myotomy a few years ago, a procedure where the lower part of my esophagus was cut, and the stomach brought up and wrapped around it, in an effort to make eating easier, but it was unsuccessful.

When it comes to on-the-go endurance fuels, I can’t take gels or bars simply because it’s too hard for me to swallow while running. HOTSHOT has worked amazing with my condition because it’s a liquid that I can easily swallow and don’t have to worry about regurgitation on the run. 

Since my surgery, I have always felt cramping on the left side of my abdominals and the muscles often feel tight, but thanks to being introduced to HOTSHOT through Heartbreak Hill Running Company, I have been cramp free!  I will be running the Boston Marathon in 2017, and will certainly be taking HOTSHOT with me for the run!



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Shalane Flanagan’s Road to Marathon: Read about the Olympians transition from track star to champion marathoner





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