• MARK L GARCIA
She ran on ice, cobbled roads, asphalt pavements, and other types of roads imaginable for seven days on seven continents.
Despite discovering her passion for running just a few years back, she managed to endure these challenges and emerged as a winner, all before she turns 50-years-old next month.
This was the journey of Sagaynon Julie Via “Luv” Uychiat, a marathoner turned world champion.
She came home to Sagay on March 10 and was welcomed by the warmth and a roller-coaster of emotions coming 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?” Julie said in her speech during the hero’s welcome prepared by the city government, adding, “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 her career the year after. There she met her husband, James Guschl. Currently, she is a Director of Clinical Services in a Health Care company in Arizona.
She started running in 2015 when she saw her sister and her best friend doing it as their hobby. Luv was not serious when she began, until she saw how other athletes and enthusiasts treat the marathons.
Because of her commitment and developed passion for running, she started half-marathoning and eventually ran in major marathons in the US, Asia, and Europe, earning 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.
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 to pursue 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”, a person from her team whom she never knew, encouraged her to push harder as she was told that she was just a few minutes away from the first placer during her runs.
Right there and then, she promised herself to beat her time in the coming races. She reaped what she had sown in the next four continents. She placed first in the last four marathons in Dubai, Madrid, Brazil, and Miami, which brought her to the podium, and was announced as the world marathon champion.
“I realized that if you have a bigger purpose, everything feels easy. During that time, I felt like the universe is helping me win,” Luv said.
She added that because of her bigger purpose to help the children, she was able to pull it through.
During the hero’s welcome, Mayor Narciso Javelosa, Jr., became teary-eyed as he gave tribute to Luv.
Javelosa, members of the City Council, 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 that she is thankful to Sagay City and her family and she is happy that they were proud of her. She ended her speech by encouraging everyone to always pursue their dream and have a higher purpose.
“Who would have thought that at this age, I will 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.*