Jocelyn Rivas' 100-Marathon Journey

A woman running on the beach

Jocelyn Rivas is a force to be reckoned with.

Born with a broken spine, neck and feet, Rivas spent much of her early life overcoming her disability, which meant not competing in sports. However, her life changed when she went to support friends running the 2013 LA Marathon.

At the age of 24, she is now on her way to being the Youngest Latina to run 100 marathons. Rivas will complete her 100th marathon, right where it all began, at the LA Marathon this November.

Rivas migrated to the United States from El Salvador as a child, and now remains in the country thanks to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act (DACA). Though she completed her first marathon in 2014, Rivas found inspiration for her 100-marathon journey in 2017 when President Trump moved to repeal DACA, threatening DREAMers across the country with deportation.

Since then, Rivas has become a beacon of strength and inspiration for the Latino community, young women and runners everywhere, proving that you really can do anything you put your mind to.

FF: What got you into running?

Jocelyn Rivas poses after completing the Los Angeles Marathon

JR: I was born with a broken neck, spine and feet. Over the years in middle school and high school, my mom was always very protective of me and told me that I couldn’t do certain sports or could only be active for a limited amount of time, to keep myself from getting hurt.

But, during my sophomore year of high school, I heard about Students Run LA through my friends, and I decided to go support my friends who were running the LA Marathon 2013. I saw such a wide range of people from 13-year-old kids to 80-year-olds running, and it inspired me to run. Even though I knew I was born with my disability, I thought to myself, “What’s preventing me from being out there with them?” I entered the program in the fall of 2013 and went from there.

FF: How did you find activity and express yourself as a child, before you started running?

JR: I was always a nerd. I was very academic. I’ve always been into robotics, MESA Math and Science competitions, things like that. I rarely ever expressed myself through sports. The closest I ever got was maybe US Army Cadets in high school. But overall I’ve always expressed myself through academics, mainly technology.

FF: What keeps you motivated toward your goal of being the Youngest Latina to run 100 marathons?

Jocelyn Rivas poses for a photo

JR: I started working toward this goal in 2017 when the government was considering repealing DACA. As a DREAMer and DACA recipient, it was a really hard time. I was debating dropping out of college, thinking that even if I graduated I wouldn’t be able to live in the US or get a job. It was a really dark time for me.

But, throughout that time I was motivated to prove that DREAMers are here to do good, and I wanted to demonstrate that through running.

I had heard of someone setting the record as the youngest person to run 100 marathons and the youngest Latina to run 100 marathons, and I knew I could beat it by a really large amount of time.

By the time I completed marathon 25, I became less concerned about proving a point for DREAMers, and wanted more to inspire people to start their health journey. It could be running, it could be another sport, but I wanted people to know that it’s possible, and maybe, if they see that I can do it, they’ll know anyone else can do it too.

FF: Your mom has always been protective when it comes to your health, what did she think when you set your 100 marathon goal?

JR: In the beginning when I completed my first marathon she said, “OK great, that’s over. We don’t have to think about it again.” But then I did my second marathon the next year and loved it. As soon as I crossed the finish line of the LA Marathon in 2014 I got this feeling of power, of strength, things I hadn’t ever felt. I felt like nothing was impossible, I was on top of the world. I wanted to feel that again, so I signed up for the following year.

After I graduated high school, I got to a point where I had done about six marathons and that’s when I got the idea to run 100 marathons. I told her my goal and she was hesitant at first, but now she's come around to support me and my goal fully.

FF: How many marathons do you run in a year?

JR: When I originally started, my goal was six marathons in a year. Then I decided every year to double it, so I went to 12 marathons in a year, and then from 12 to 27 in 2019. In 2020, I was supposed to do 52 marathons in the year to finish my journey but then COVID-19 happened, so I was only able to complete 25 marathons.

To save money on traveling, I signed up for a triple marathon, so at one point I was running six marathons in nine days in Florida. I did three marathons from December 26-28, took three days off and then continued starting January 1, 2021. I didn’t know if races were going to continue happening in 2021, so my mindset was to just get through whatever I could.

A woman running in a race

FF: How do you deal with that turnaround between races?

JR: Everything changed when the COVID-19 pandemic happened, so I went into survival mode just trying to complete any race I could.

I knew I was going to suffer and be in tremendous pain, but I always tell myself pain is temporary. But I know once I finish the race I can relax and start again the next day.

When COVID-19 started, I was only halfway through my goal to get to 100 marathons. I felt like it was over, that I wouldn’t achieve my titles. But over the course of March I realized I could still break the record for the youngest Latina to run 100 marathons. I kept looking for races and finally found one in August 2020 in Minnesota. I took a flight out, I was super scared because of COVID, but they were only able to allow 30 runners and I was one of them, so I had to jump on the opportunity.

Luckily, I’ve been able to push through the pandemic. I tell myself that even though it might be hard, if you fight hard enough for your dreams your dreams will fight for you. Just get up and get to the start line, and once I’m there I know I’m going to make it.

Speed Round Questions:

Favorite shoes to run in: HOKA for long distances, but for short distances I run in ASICS.

Favorite marathon: The LA Marathon, it was my first marathon and it’s my hometown.

Go-to recovery snack: Honestly, chips or pickles. Anything salty really.

Jocelyn Rivas is an active member of Latinas Run, an international organization focused on bringing together and empowering Latinas through fitness and running. Learn more about how to get involved in Latinas Run events and community here.

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