Beverly Ramos watched footage from nearly every available marathon course on YouTube during 2020, when her hometown of San Juan, Puerto Rico (and the rest of the world) shut down, forcing her to take her training runs from the road to the treadmill. She also filled her schedule with workouts on the stationary bike and strength training. “It was a little bit hard, getting on the treadmill every single day and not being able to train with people,” says Ramos, who says she loves the social aspect of distance running. Plus, her treadmill could only go as fast as a 5:20 per mile pace — which, believe it or not, is slower than her typical speed workouts. “When you’re in this kind of situation, you have to obviously do the best you can with the things that you have available,” she says.
By June 2020, she was back on the track in Puerto Rico, chasing a new national marathon record. Her hard work paid off last December, when she ran 26.2 miles in 2 hours, 33 minutes, and 9 seconds at The Marathon Project in Chandler, Arizona. “I think it was about getting to race one more time in 2020, and so many people weren’t able to do anything at all,” she says of her excitement on the starting line. “For me, it was more about being grateful that I get to have a chance to race and a great opportunity.” Ramos also says she tapped into her long-standing experience as a runner to boost her confidence for The Marathon Project race and maintain a strong mental game despite all the curveballs of 2020. (
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But during the pandemic wasn't the first time Ramos' training plan had to completely change course. Just a few years earlier, Ramos experienced one of the hardest training cycles — and life events — of her life.
Marathon Training Mid-Disaster
In 2017, Ramos was training for the TCS New York City Marathon amid the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which left Puerto Rico with little access to vital resources, including clean water or fresh food, and without power to much of the island for months. Ramos bunkered down at home with her family on the island, rationing her water supply and living off canned food.
"Obviously you want to keep running, you want to keep doing the things that you love, but also you have to take care of all the things," says Ramos of her priorities to help her family and Puerto Rico. "At the same time, you have this one hour or two hours just for yourself to deal with the emotional side of your personal life," she adds, about making time for running. (
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"It was interesting because when you get ready for a race, you're thinking about placing a time that you want to run. But for me, at that time, [training] was more about that being the most amazing time in the day 'cause I had nothing else to do," she continues. "Of course, I wanted to be as ready as possible for the marathon, but also I wanted to be healthy — that was the most important thing for me. And not just physically but emotionally. It was very hard on me."
Still, Ramos recalls one particular run that helped her keep going: It was her first time out on the streets just about three days after the hurricane hit. "Everything was destroyed — trees everywhere, power lines everywhere. And it was very special because the people that knew me throughout my running [career], they just went outside their houses to cheer me on, on my run," she recalls. "I was like, this is so special. Even as everyone was going through something so hard, they still had that special emotion toward me. So, I definitely will remember that run many years after this."
Representing Puerto Rico
In addition to training on the island in the aftermath of the Hurricane Maria devastation, Ramos is only the second woman in history to represent Puerto Rico in the Olympic Games — which she did twice, in 2012 for the steeplechase and 2016 for the marathon.
She also started her running career in Puerto Rico when she was just 9 years old, taking walks with her mom before following behind a group of runners in a nearby park, keeping pace with their stride. She then joined a track and field club, competing in all events from high jump to hurdles until she realized her talent in distance running at age 14. From then on, she focused on 800-meter runs and farther.
"Obviously, at the beginning, it was like playing with everyone," says of her early days in the sport. "But then when I got a little bit more mature and I understood what I was doing, I definitely fell in love with the training and the commitment and the responsibility that you have to have in track and field."
"I know that I mean a lot to young girls and young runners who follow my career," says Ramos. "I know it when I'm on the track. I know it when I'm on the streets. People recognize what I do, and I keep up because of them. Sometimes you have many reasons to continue in this sport. And I want to be someone special that many of the kids in Puerto Rico can follow." (
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Speaking of advice for future runners, Ramos has some tips for anyone looking to start in the spot or wanting to sign up for their first race: Focus on what makes you feel good. Then, have a few back-up plans when you hit the starting line.
"I always try to go into a marathon with different goals because sometimes you go with one and it could be crushing [if you don't hit it], she says. "If you're not meeting that expectation, it could be devastating emotionally." She suggests aiming for smaller, more specific goals that can help you focus on something other than the finish line — certain splits, hitting a certain point of the race at a set time, or simply feeling good at a specific mile.
"What I can say for sure is that if you feel healthy about the things that you're doing, then you're going to have a good result at the end," she says. "And I feel like this is what's [running] is all about — feeling good about what you're doing."