Susanne is one of those people that literally does it all! She runs marathons, triathlons, she’s a mom, she started a triathlon program for kids, she’s in grad school, she’s a yoga teacher, the list goes on and on! Funny thing is that Susanne used to hate running! All that has changed as she is now a 2-time Ironman finisher, has completed 10 marathons, and has participated in many other shorter triathlons and races. In addition to being a dedicated runner, Susanne is deeply involved in the community. When she lived in Connecticut, she started a youth triathlon program called Race4Chase that is now in 26 locations across 4 states. She also works as a wellness & recovery coach, and teaches yoga! If that weren’t enough, Susanne is now currently tackling another Master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling. Read all about Susanne and how running, community, and wellness intersect in her life.
Q U I C K Q U E S T I O N S
Runner(s) Full Name: Susanne Navas
Age Category: 50-54
Favorite Race: Marine Corps Marathon
First Race: Peachtree 10k in Atlanta, age 30
Favorite Race Memory: Every year, my dad and I do the Myrtle Beach Marathon. He has done it almost every year since it first started, and in 2011 I joined him. When I got off the plane in MB, I was met by him and a TV camera crew that was filming live. My dad was the oldest resident in MB who was participating in the marathon, and they were doing a feature on him. When he told them that his daughter, who had recently finished her first Ironman triathlon, was joining him, they insisted I be part of the news item. So when he came to hug me at baggage claim, he whispered, “You’re on camera, just ignore them and act normal.” My dad stopped running and switched to walking marathons at some point, and at age 75 he decided it was better for him to “only” do a half marathon. Each year, we have 13.1 miles to chat, uninterrupted, while people hand us water and cheer us on, and we get a medal for the meaningful experience. He is now 80, and is already training for 2022.
How did you get started running? I used to HATE running. But when I was in my early 20s, I worked at the World Wildlife Fund in DC, and an older coworker asked me if I would run with her at lunch. She was a really slow runner, and I found that I really enjoyed the conversation, the easy effort, and the beautiful views of the National Mall. At some point I realized I had mentally reframed running, from something torturous that I had to do to avoid putting on weight, to an activity that felt good physically and mentally.
Favorite Running Event/Distance? 10 milers and half marathons are my ideal distance. And I LOVE Ragnars! I love triathlons, and these days mostly do sprint distance races.
What is your favorite part about running and/or racing? Being outside, feeling the air and sun and rain on my skin, feeling the wonder of what my 51-year-old body can do, and not taking this for granted.
Who is your biggest cheerleader/supporter? My 2-year-old chocolate lab, who comes with me for 3-mile runs if it’s not too hot out. He gets really excited whenever I start putting on my Hokas. In terms of humans, my husband, Bill. He has always been my greatest supporter, especially for triathlons. When the kids were little, he knew my training and racing were my sacred Me Time and he respected that, and has always been proud of me.
What is your Spirit Animal? Why? Turtles! When I was in high school I ran track for a very short stint, and I was so slow they nicknamed me “Tortuga” (Spanish for turtle – I grew up in Mexico). After one big meet I quit the team and returned to ballet, and didn’t return to running with any consistency until my early 20s. Now I have a wall full of podium and finisher medals and trophies. I have completed 2 Ironman triathlons and numerous shorter tri’s, about 10 marathons and dozens of shorter races. I often share this story with the kids I coach, because it is really tempting to give up, when you feel like you are way behind everyone else. But a valuable life lesson is that slow and steady really does win the race. You just need to keep showing up – which is something most people don’t do, in the long run.
What is your life’s motto? Words to live by? Stay in your lane, and keep doing the next right thing, over and over, and things will work out.
3 Fun Facts About Yourself:
- I was born in Belgium to an English dad and Swedish mother, and grew up in Mexico City.
- In 2010 I started a youth triathlon program in Waterbury, CT. It is now in 26 locations in 4 states. I am hoping to start one here in Northern Virginia. It’s called Race4Chase, and it’s a free summer program for kids ages 6-12. If you want to help me start it please reach out!
- I am back in grad school, getting another Master’s, in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. My dream is to help people heal from trauma and find relief from anxiety and depression, through running, yoga, and all kinds of active adventures (I will not be plopping clients on a couch!)
Top 3 things to have for a race or run: (Must Have Items):
- Hoka running shoes
- Weather-appropriate clothing – because there is no such thing as a bad day to run, just bad gear
- A thick layer of Aquaphor on my feet for long and/or wet runs
Your last run/walk was: 3 hot and hilly miles round my neighborhood before work.
Favorite Place to Run: This particular road in Rincon, PR, that goes right along the ocean, with palm trees, horses, cows, iguanas…
What advice would you have for a new runner or walker? Go slowly. The key to starting & continuing a new habit is to take small steps but do it consistently. So maybe it means committing to, every day, walking or running for 5 minutes, and then choosing to either keep going, or turn around and go home. Even then, you got in a 10 minute walk or run, which is great. Do the same thing the next day. And listen to something you enjoy, that you only allow yourself to listen to while moving – a playlist or podcast (or a show if on Treadmill). Remember, you GET to do this.
If I wasn’t running or walking I would be . . . Teaching yoga, coaching clients (I’m a wellness & recovery coach), studying, writing, or napitating (my version of meditation which sometimes ends up in a nap)
My favorite post-run, walk, or race meal is . . . Cava or Sweetgreen salad
Tell us a little more . . . When my kids were in grade school, I was really unhappy with how little time they were allowed outside, and for exercise. So I started a “Race Across America” program at their school. Parents would drop off their kids an hour before school started, or stay and help out, and we would walk the kids to an area where they could either walk or run laps, while chatting with each other. We tracked the mileage on a map of the US, and every Friday I would hand out trinkets as they hit milestones. Everyone loved it. Teachers even noticed that the kids who had ADHD were much more settled in class, and wondered if their parents had put them on medication (they hadn’t). Around this time, I had also started the youth summer triathlon program, hoping to teach urban kids to swim and ride bikes, and to introduce them to my favorite sport, which for many kids is inaccessible. Race4Chase is one of the most challenging things I have ever done, but it is also one of the most amazing experiences my family and I have had. We moved to VA from CT in 2017 and I hope I get to start a program in this area, perhaps at a YMCA, local rec center or a school. The biggest challenge is we need access to a pool. This program teaches important life skills (swimming), social-emotional skills, goal-setting, nutrition, stress management, and boosts kids’ self-esteem and sense of empowerment.