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by Carbon Crew on July 14, 2022

On Sept. 20, 2015, Aroa Sio crossed the finish line of the Trail Montes de Vigo 18K race in Northwestern Spain, put her hands on her shaking thighs, and wondered: “what the hell just happened?” It was her first-ever trail race, she hadn’t run in 28 years, she’d signed up for the tough, technical run kind of by accident (thinking it was like a cross-country event), and she finished first.

Her legs throbbing, the 36-year-old vowed to never do anything like that again. But lying in bed that night, she couldn’t stop thinking of the single track and steep ascents. She stopped running for about six months after that, but this wild idea kept circling her brain: “Maybe I’m good at this. Maybe I can make a life out of this.”

And she did. She joined a running club, signed up for another 21K, eventually quit her job as a special-education teacher, and never looked back. Within five years, she’d gone from an amateur to a sponsored runner to running professionally for Craft Sportswear.

“The only way to find your why is to keep going,” Sio said. “And when you find something you like, keep doing it, not for the goals, but because you love it.”

This week, she’ll be toeing the line at the Western States 100-mile endurance run in northern California after finishing third at the Canyons 100K last April and nagging a coveted golden ticket. It will be the farthest she’s ever run, and she shakes her head when she thinks of her life seven years ago, of the sedentary chain-smoker who could barely run a mile, of the young track athlete who stopped running, then gave birth to her daughter at 21, and didn’t lace up her shoes for nearly 20 years.

It took forever and an instant for her to find this part of herself, but when she did, she knew she not only couldn’t let it go, she had to go all-in.