February 2017 Instructor of the Month: Soledad Darquea

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This month, we are highlighting our amazing Senior Certified Instructor, Soledad Darquea, from Ecuador! Read more to learn about her favorite focuses in ChiRunning, her hardest race and who her favorite cheerleader is on the sidelines.


Tell us a little about you. Where you live, what your background is.
My name is Soledad Darquea and I am from Quito, Ecuador, in South America.  I was born and raised here but I also lived in the United States for 10 years, during my high school and college years, as well as just out of school when I worked my first real-world job.  I came back to Ecuador in 2000 and have lived here ever since.   I got married in 2004 and had our daughters Andrea in 2008 and Sofia in 2013.

How did you start running?
I was always into sports.  I ran track-and-field in 3rd grade, did gymnastics in 4th grade and in 5th grade I started swimming and swam ever since through my junior year in college.  After I stopped swimming I took up running and have never stopped.  I ran my first marathon in 1999 and will soon run my 7th marathon on February 19th, 2017 in Fort Lauderdale, the A1A Marathon.

When and how did ChiRunning come into your life? (The short story.)
I got injured while training for my 2nd marathon in 2004.  My older brother, an avid runner and triathlete, had recently learned about ChiRunning.  He had bought the DVD and the book and made me watch and read them both.  I instantly recovered and ran a PR and BQ (Boston Qualifying) time at the marathon I’d been preparing for.  I got certified in 2011 and have enjoyed teaching it ever since.

In what ways has Chi changed your perception of and success in running?
Being a competitive swimmer I was all about times and PRs and BQs and healthy rivalry with my fellow running friends.  However, with time I have understood that ChiRunning goes way beyond all that.  First and foremost it is for everyone and especially those who are not that competitive but that want to enjoy running for a really long time.  Age does good things for us all.  It has taught me that running long and far is much more important than running fast.  Running with good form has allowed me to share this first-hand with other people, understand their needs, and help them see ChiRunning for what it is.

What do you think is the biggest misconception of ChiRunning?
People tend to get overly excited about PRs and improving times.  They want it to make them run faster instead of focusing on the other more important goals that ChiRunning aims for.

What motivates you to run?
Ultimately what motivates me is a goal.  I like to train for something so I can see the results of whatever work I put in.  I like to accomplish what I’ve set out to do.  It also motivates me to run with my husband and share this hobby together.  And now I enjoy it even more because my kids are following our example of Mens Sana in Corpore Sano. 

What does your average week look like, run-wise? 
Because of our daughters’ school schedules we run one at a time.  I run Mon-Wed-Fri and my husband runs Tue-Thu-Sat.  We run together on Sundays when we do our LSDs.  It’s all about communication and teamwork.  ☺

What other forms of exercise do you practice to complement ChiRunning?
I stretch and once in a while I go swimming whenever time allows.  Usually my cross-training involves a lot of running around with our daughters playing soccer, hide and seek, or running behind them while they ride their bikes.  So I guess I complement it with more running! 

What led you to become an instructor?
I’ve always liked to share whatever knowledge I might have.  I have more than 20 years’ experience in some form of teaching, be it to kids or adults.  I also wanted to sell the ChiRunning products at our specialty store in Ecuador and wanted to complement them with the workshops.

What do you most enjoy about instructing?
I absolutely love it when people have their “AHA” moments.  I love to share their smiles once they understand a concept because they can feel it in their bodies.  I like to hear and share stories and I also like to meet new people, people who love this sport and have their own dreams and goals.

Advice for people new to ChiRunning?
Learn the technique well and practice few focuses at a time.  Don’t expect immediate results and aim for better posture first.  Practice posture at all times.  Ask any questions you may have during the workshop and make sure you get it (whatever “it” may be) before going on to the next lesson.  Above all, aim to run longer rather than faster.  Speed is a by-product once all others fall into place.

Favorite race you’ve run and why:
Quito holds a yearly 15K that starts at the southern side of the city, crosses the Historic part of it and ends on the tracks at the Olympic Stadium.  It’s a tough, hilly race with close to 20.000 participants but it’s a classic one that calls together running groups and companies’ running teams in a day full of comradery.

Most memorable race:
It would have to be the Chicago Marathon 2009.  I ran my PR there: 3h33.  I felt relaxed and well-trained.  I had given birth to my eldest daughter in 2008 and so I’d been back into running only 6 months but felt really strong.  I guess women’s bodies get stronger after giving birth!  The pictures that were taken of me during the race show me smiling at all times.  Plus, my daughter traveled with us and a friend took care of her while we ran.  They were waiting for us at the 25-mile mark and it was really exciting to see her in her little stroller “cheering” for Mom and Dad. 

Ideal weather for running:
I run best and enjoy it more in a spring or fall-type weather.  Quito is high up in the Andes Mountains (almost 9.000 ft. above sea level) so its weather is cool during the early morning hours when I train.

Focus that currently dominates your running:
I like to focus on taking short strides and really engaging my core.  I usually check these two first, especially during longer runs when I start feeling tired.
Favorite place to run:  Trails and the beach.  I also enjoy the track whenever I feel great at a fast-paced workout.

Upcoming race/goal:  Fort Lauderdale Marathon, February 19th, 2017.

Run with or without phone/music:  Without.  I love to take in my surroundings or just lose myself in my thoughts.  Some good ideas for work also come to me while running.

If I didn’t run, I would swim.  Still love this sport so much.

My first race was a half marathon while living with my older brother and working a summer job while in college.  It was Granma’s Half Marathon in Duluth, MN, 1997.

My current favorite shoe to run in is any light-weight neutral trainer.  Currently I am training and switching amongst the following: Adidas Adizero Boston, Adidas Adizero Adios, Nike Free RN Distance.

My most difficult run ever was the 2011 Half Marathon in Fort Lauderdale.  I had injured myself right before I traveled to be certified.  The race was held that same weekend so I ran it despite my doctor’s orders and tore my ITB band at the hip.  I was training for the 2011 Boston Marathon and did not want to stop training.  After this injury I had to stop and eventually ran Boston without much mileage in me.  That one was a tough one to finish too.

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