SHE ran on ice, cobbled road, asphalt pavements, and other types of roads for seven days on seven continents. Despite being a first-timer in the field of marathons, she managed to endure these challenges and emerged as a winner. And she will be 50 years old next month.
This was the journey of Sagaynon Julie Dia “Luv” Uychiat, a first-time athlete turned into a world marathon champion. She came home to Sagay on March 10 and was welcomed by the warmth and a roller-coaster of emotions from her family, friends, relatives, and fans that indicated how proud they were of her.
“I am now 49, turning 50 next month. Who would expect that I would achieve this?” In her speech during the hero’s welcome prepared by the city government, Julie said, “God gave me this gift, and I will use this as long as I can.”
Luv was born and raised by a former councilor and teacher parents in Brgy. Poblacion II, Sagay City. She became a nurse in 1993 and migrated to the United States to pursue this career the year after. There she met her husband, James Guschl.
Currently, she is a clinical services director in a hospital in Arizona.
She started running in 2015 when she saw her sister and a best friend doing it as a hobby. She was only serious when she began when she saw how other athletes and enthusiasts treated the marathons.
Because of her commitment and developed passion for running, she started half-marathoning and eventually ran in major marathons in US and Europe and earned respectable rankings before joining the 7-Continents World Marathon Challenge in January.
To endure a 42-kilometer run every day for one week, with flights in between to different countries, takes a lot of strength. And for Luv, it was drawing inspiration from her purpose to help other people, especially neglected children.
In her speech, she shared that she visited Kalipay Foundation 10 years ago, and she was drawn to these kids who were being taken care of by this non-government organization based in Bacolod City. From then on, the foundation became her purpose of pursuing more, like joining more marathons.
Luv narrated that during the first two runs in Antarctica, Cape Town in South Africa, and Australia, she placed fourth, third, and second, respectively. But an “angel” from her team, whom she never knew, encouraged her to push harder as she was told she was just a few minutes away from first place during her runs.
Right there and then, she promised herself to beat her time in the coming races. She reaped what she sowed in the following four continents.
She placed first in the last four marathons in Dubai, Madrid, Brazil, and Miami, which brought her to the podium, and she was announced as the world marathon champion.
“I realized that everything feels easy if you have a bigger purpose. I felt like the universe was helping me win during that time,” Luv said.
She added that she could pull it through because of her bigger purpose to help the children.
During the hero’s welcome, Mayor Narciso Javelosa, Jr., became teary-eyed as he gave tribute to Luv. The mayor and the city councilors, and department heads dedicated a city resolution to commend her achievement.
“I am happy and proud that a Sagaynon like her has reached this far and put the name of the city and the Philippines in the international marathon scene,” Javelosa said, adding, “I am deeply touched on how she made the abandoned children of Kalipay Foundation as her inspiration to run and win.”
Luv also said she is thankful to Sagay City and her family and happy they were proud of her. She ended her speech by encouraging everyone to pursue their dreams and have a higher purpose.
“Who would have thought that at this age, I would be joining the world marathon where my competition is younger than me? So, whenever you have a dream, go for it,” Luv said as she pledged to continue running and helping the children of Kalipay and other neglected kids.* (MLG)