“Going to the trails allowed me to discover a different world, a world of peace, connection, and self-discovery.”
“Whenever you finish a race, especially something as demanding as a 100 mile, you have so much more experience, the person who crossed the finish line is not the same person who toed the starting line.” Running came into Lulu Martinez’s life, exactly when she needed it.
Growing up in Mexico, Lulu was not sporty. “I actually failed P.E. class, I graduated with honors, but not in that class. I was never a person who enjoyed any physical activity whatsoever.” In her late twenties, she traded in her high heels for a pair of running shoes. She needed some sort of physical activity to keep her motivated and to quiet her mind. “Putting on some running shoes and trying to stay on the treadmill for five to ten minutes, seemed the easiest thing to do” she recalled. She recruited her younger brother, Leon, to run a local 5k with her. When she finished, something had changed in her, a feeling she hadn’t experienced before, but she knew she wanted more.
The following year, in 2013, she packed up her life and moved from Mexico City to New York City. Grad school brought her to the States, where she would go on to get her Master’s in Science of Publishing. “All of that process, months leading up to that, were mentally very stressful. I kept running as a way to try to calm myself down and keep myself centered.” One week before she moved, she ran her first 10k, her farthest distance to date. She was hitting new running milestones, and felt the effects, beyond the physical benefits. “If I’m able to put my body through this (running), then I am able to leave everything behind and start a new life in New York.” Running gave Lulu the confidence to help her take on the biggest challenge of her life. After settling into NYC, Lulu joined a running group, as a way to meet new friends. With this group, she found a community of like-minded running enthusiasts. One person stood out to her, a shy, unassuming guy named, Joe. “He was already an accomplished ultra runner, he had already done 100 mile races, I hadn’t even heard about trail running!” They became frequent training companions, and often bolted out of the city to run the trails at Bear Mountain. She felt like she had found her people, her community, and in Joe, her future husband.
Lulu was certainly intrigued by the trails and the trail running community. She had spent most of her runs pounding the pavement. Trails were so foreign to her, she had never run the beautiful landscape of her home country of Mexico. “Going to the trails allowed me to discover a different world, a world of peace, connection, and self-discovery. I kept running trails, going deeper into this world, as opposed to continuing as a roadrunner.” The trails had changed her in a profound way, and she was eager to keep adding the mileage to her races.
Lulu took the plunge and entered her first half-marathon in 2015, the Fred Lebow Manhattan Half, which consisted of two loops around Central Park in New York City. “This was amazing, what else can I do?” was her first thought after crossing the finish line. Exactly one year after running her first half-marathon, Lulu entered and finished her first 100 mile, Coldwater Rumble 100, in Arizona. She had an intense burning desire to see what person would emerge from that experience. “I knew this would be life-changing, that’s what kept me going. Looking back, I was completely unprepared. I had no plan.” What she lacked in planning, she made up for in spirit. What she did have was a will to want something bad enough, and the curiosity and guts to try.
She calls the Vermont 100 her favorite race, describing it as a place where dreams come true. “That race is my family, I keep coming back to it.” She loves the course, the sense of community, and the overall vibe of the race. This was the first 100 mile she had ever witnessed, while pacing her friend back in 2014. She came back in 2017, and got her first finish there. She’s already counting down the days until July, when she’ll be back at Silver Hill, going for her second Vermont 100 finish.
She dreams that one day, she will have her whole family waiting for her, as she crosses the finish line of a 100. Experiencing those emotions with the ones she loves, would be icing on the cake. Family is near and dear to Lulu and she often reminisces about running her first 5k with Leon and the other miles they shared together. She would love to return to Mexico to do an ultra there and experience her home trails with a new sense of wonder.
Lulu lives on the East side of the Bronx and works in midtown Manhattan, leaving her with a three-hour round trip commute to work. Her dedication to ultra running requires rising at 4:00a.m. to get her training in. It’s a race against the clock. When Lulu isn’t working or exploring the trails, she enjoys spending time baking. “I love sweet stuff.” She started baking as a way to satisfy her sweet tooth, and has many vegan options to do just that. Her other love is reading, she considers herself quite the bookworm and can easily get lost in the pages.
Curiosity, respect, and gratitude for running has drawn Lulu to more ultra races over the years. She’s most certainly not the same person she was in Arizona that early January morning, embarking on her first 100. Running has brought her many gifts and joys along the way. As Lulu reflected back on her running moments, she spoke with such raw beauty and emotion. “When the body is completely drained and exhausted, it’s like your mind sits back and you are able to think clearly. I believe that is the experience for everyday runners, whether that’s because you are going through something at work, coping with grief, or keeping up with sobriety, running is a way to deal with life.”