As Kelyn Curitomay crossed over the Mexican border into Tijuana, she was both excited and nervous. The year prior, she had to drop to the 25k course during the Ultramaraton Baja 50K when the technical, hilly course got the best of her. In 2018, she was determined to complete the 50K distance and toed the line, feeling intense gratitude for how far she had come since she laced up her first pair of running shoes.
Curitomay was born and raised in Peru with her parents and two siblings, until her dad left when she was 11. Growing up in a poor neighborhood, she started working at an early age to help her mom at the local market. Kelyn recalls how much joy her friends brought her, as they basked in the simple pleasures. “We didn’t have much, but a ball was present throughout my whole childhood. I remember playing soccer and volleyball with my friends all the time. I have the best memories of my childhood friends sharing the little things we had.”
By 2015, she had a growing family of her own with one young child and another on the way with her husband, Edinson. Her life was full, but sadness was creeping in. Having a husband in the US Navy brought her great pride, but also had its challenges. “My husband, being on active duty, was rarely at home. With no family around, I felt so lonely, and just looking at myself in the mirror made me more miserable.” She gained 60 pounds, her weight almost reaching 200, and was also suffering from postpartum depression. “Those were dark days for me.”
Again, Curitomay leaned on her friends for support which came in the form of love and an unexpected gift: an old running double stroller. Her friends encouraged her to start running for the physical and mental benefits. “I had no idea where to start, but I was determined to give it a try. I bought a pair of clearance running shoes and little did I know, it was the beginning of a passion.” Her new hobby pulled her out of the darkness, and she began to feel a new sense of purpose.
As Curitomay climbed the rugged hills of the 50K course in Tijuana, people were cheering, “Si se Puede!”(“You can do it!”). The technical, rugged, beautiful terrain reminded her of how far she’d come from the early days of pushing her babies in that tattered jogger. “When I knew I was close to the finish line, I got my second wind and ran harder to finish the race strong. I was so happy. My friends were there waiting for me and we celebrated. In Mexico, they use the word ‘Chingona’ which means badass, and that day, they told me I have earned the Chingona title.”
When asked what ultrarunning has taught her, she gushes. “It taught me to find the real me. I didn’t know that I could be a runner and that I would even be running ultras. It taught me that I can conquer anything in my life because I’m a warrior and I can endure, even in my lows.”
Curitomay puts in the work on and off the trails. While training for the Vermont 100 and Yeti 100 in 2019, her husband was on deployment, but that didn’t stop her from chasing her goals. “I was a full-time college student, raising two little ones with no support from anyone. There were times that I had to run in circles around my house and put lots of hours on the treadmill. With everything I have been through, I have learned that I’m a badass mother runner and that nothing can stop me from achieving my goals.” She’s currently training for the Cuyamaca 100K, Rio del Lago 100 and Coldwater Rumble 100.
When asked what she’d like to share with new ultrarunners, she pauses. “I made many mistakes as a newbie, and it is okay not to understand everything about this sport right away. I’m still learning after six years of running. It is okay to be scared.
It is okay to fall, but it is not okay to not get back up. It is okay to cry at finish lines, after a long run or when you didn’t reach your mileage. It is okay to take an extra day off or a week if your body needs it. This is your journey and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Make the best of this adventure. Run roads, trails, treadmills, minimalist, with lots of gear, solo, crewed or whatever you want because in the end, running is a personal experience, and running makes you free.”