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ACC Student Finds Path in Ultramarathons

Trying to raise four sons on her own and dealing with the trauma of domestic violence, Alvin Community College student Lydia Rios sought a way to heal.

“I was fighting just to breath,” she said. “Even breathing was painful.”

She found that sense of healing when she signed up for a marathon as part of a charity. It was in that first race that she discovered that long distance running helped her find purpose both for herself and others.

Now she is running ultramarathons which helps her find perspective in her life and her future. Rios said she was the first woman to complete the 100-mile Orion Ultra.

“It has helped me accept my reality,” Rios said. “And also to know that there’s a lot of  things that I think I know but are really not under my control. It also made me realize that (I wanted to) come back to school after 22 years.”

As she continues to pursue her best times in ultramarathons, Rios said she signed up for her longest race ever, getting a college degree. Rios recently began taking courses at ACC in the Communications program.

“I was so terrified to sign up for classes,” she said. 

After meeting other runners and sharing her story, Rios said she was inspired to start her education.

“I wanted run a marathon and what did I do? I took that step of faith,” she said. “And that pushed me to bigger things.”

The road to working on her education has been as rough as the ultramarathons she competes in.

Dealing with post-traumatic stress was harming her mentally and physically. At one point, Rios said she considered taking her own life.

“You end up living in a small bubble, which is really not living,” Rios said. “I couldn’t find a reason to just get up.”

Rios began to undergo treatment for her mental health and recovery has been a journey, she said.

”It has been life-saving,” she said.

Running has helped the process and it more than anything, Rios said it has built resilience.

“When I get to that mode, probably after 50 miles, it is a flow for the soul. “It is just you and your body, it’s like a harmony: you and the trail. And life is like that sometimes.”

Her time on the trail and in the classroom has inspired Rios to help others as well. She recently began a fundraiser to help children who want to participate in martial arts training.

Rios has also began writing about her experiences to hopefully inspire others to find healing.

“I wanted to heal because I didn’t want to repeat the same cycle,” she said. “And I just got a new perspective on life. There’s a lot of amazing stories that need to be told to give people hope.”

The full interview with Rios is available on the ACC Podcast which is available wherever listeners get their podcasts.