Running in Motion!
Commitment, courage, discipline, training, and diet, are only a few of the attributes that athletes and runners bring to their daily lives as they make strides towards their objectives. Latinas who took up running later in life, such as Laura Nieto, managing director of community outreach at South-west Airlines, and Jimena Grimaldo, owner of a small business in Plain City, Ohio, not only enjoy it but have also developed a strong support system, made lifelong friendships and benefited from its health advantages.
Laura Nieto, Managing Director Community Outreach at Southwest Airlines
“Dear running, thank you for always clearing my head, grounding my “sole”, healing my heart, and lifting my spirits,” shares Laura Nieto, Managing Director, Community Outreach at Southwest Airlines.
“Sometimes the need to run is more than just the need to exercise.” The first marathon Nieto participated in was before her 30th birthday. Inspired by her parent’s decision to run, she watched them complete their first and only marathon in their late 50s. Seeing this determination, Nieto added running the 26.2 miles to her bucket list and immediately started training. “I remember calling them to check-in and marveling at their commitment, waking up at four o’clock in the morning to get their training in before it got too hot,” Nieto shares. “I wrote down and committed to myself that I would run a marathon too. And while it was some of the most difficult training I have ever endured, the process was life-changing.”
In the last 10 years, Nieto has completed 16 marathons throughout the world, accomplishing the global Six Star Finisher status (completing the six Abbott World Marathon Majors which include Berlin, Boston, Chicago, London, New York, and Tokyo). Today, she believes sports empowers women to see their strength outside traditional norms of beauty.
“You learn how to test your limits in ways you might not have imagined, and this inner strength translates across all areas of your life including work,” she shares. “Sports teaches the value of teamwork and resilience which can build your self-confidence.”
Nieto not only added running to her bucket list, but she also took on the role of a new mom. After experiencing a challenging pregnancy, nurturing a newborn, and returning to work, she realized she needed to put on her oxygen mask first. Running provided Nieto with a physical outlet and an opportunity for renewal.
“What it revealed to me was that I needed to create space to catch my breath.” she shares. “Through running, I found my strength and a newfound energy to be a more patient mother, a more present wife, and a more engaged coworker.”
While she continues to calendar multiple races each year, Nieto shares that it’s not really about the number of races, rather it’s the journey alongside her running family that keeps her motivated. She shared how being a part of a community you trust provides space for you to be your authentic self.
“My running community has been there for me during celebratory times and difficult times,” said Nieto. “Community is about feeling connected, and I find purpose in being there for them too.”
The mother of a 17-year-old athlete, Nieto hopes to lead by example, demonstrating what commitment, courage, and perseverance looks like.
“I love that my daughter has a healthy approach to physical activity,” she shares. “And she has seen first-hand what that does for her mind, body and well-being.”
Nieto’s intention around engaging her body in preparation for race day feels more exhilarating during the winter, her preferred training season. She describes breathing in the cold air, feeling the burn on her throat, and seeing her breath as she exhales over and again.
“The sound of your feet hitting the pavement and the pounding of your heartbeat is magnified in the still of the morning, only lit by the moonlight,” she describes. “There is so much research now around mental health and exercise. When I am running, my mind and body feel connected in a completely different way. It truly gives me an outlet that is restorative each day.”
As an executive at Southwest, Nieto believes the company recognizes employees ‘overall well-being, which contributes to them living fulfilling and productive lives. Throughout the year, Southwest provides their employees with important benefits and resources at no cost to help improve and maintain their overall well-being.
“People are and have always been, the heartbeat of Southwest Airlines®, and we work to advance and connect them to the things that are important in their lives,” she shares. “If you run, you’re a runner. It doesn’t matter how far or how fast. When it comes to mental health and wellness, my hope is that everyone would find that time, space, or activity that inspires them and carve out quality time for themselves. You’ll be glad you did.”
Small Business Owner
“I started running in High School, at that time my father used to invite me on weekends for a run. In the beginning, it was not as exciting as it is now, I used to say “yes” just to spend some time with him and do some exercise,” shares Mexican-born Jimena Grimaldo, entrepreneur and small business owner in Columbus, OH.
Grimaldo began her journey to running while in college, however, her first triathlon was 10 years ago and it started with a sprint triathlon race.
“My brother-in-law tried to convince me and my husband on buying a road bike and start to train,” she shares. “The first time I tried to ride a road bike was like “No way”, the seat is too high, this is not for me and I’m going to fall on the first move.”
Grimaldo is proud to have participated in the Olympic Triathlons (Chicago / NY City), 70.3 Ironman (Delaware, Ohio), Full Marathon (Columbus, Ohio), and the Dublin Emerald Half City Marathon. As a wife, mom, and entrepreneur she shares she needs her “me time” every day.
I really love the workout, it makes me feel happy, gives me energy, challenges me, etc.,” she shares. “I signed up for the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon in 2022, got my training plan and decided to go for it,”
Today she shares her love of biking, swimming and running with her two children and husband.
“You can literally achieve EVERYTHING you want, it’s just a matter of wanting and making things happen,” she shares. “If you don’t like sports give them a try and find the one you love. Probably it’s not running, maybe swimming, biking, etc. Probably you are not going to be the number one on day 1, but the clue is to compare yourself with the progress you have achieve and CELEBRATE IT.”