Meet new MTA coach Athena Farias

Running helped her overcome a traumatic childhood. Now, she gives back and motivates her clients.

By Henry Howard

Describing her childhood as “pretty traumatic,” Athena Farias found her escape through running.

When she was age 5, she considered herself to be all alone in the world. Farias says her parents were set to physically harm one another. She vividly recalls seeing her mom trying to shoot her father, and another time when he held a knife to her mother’s throat.

Farias was kidnapped briefly during a custody battle. And suffered sexual abuse as a child.

At age 12, Farias decided to go for a run, a decision that would be life-changing and life-affirming. “Running was my drug of choice at that time in my life and I am so thankful that I chose it.”

Immediately, she felt a sense of calm amid her chaotic life.

“I was gone for an hour or so and when I got back home I felt in control, empowered and at peace,” she recalls. “I knew that I could get through what life had handed me. Let’s just say it was my safe haven and I am here today because of running.”

‘Go big or go home’

Not only is she here, she is giving back to other runners as one of the newest coaches at Marathon Training Academy (MTA).

“I am very passionate about helping people reach their fitness goals from weight loss to running a marathon,” Farias says. “I love seeing the athletes transform from just wanting to run a marathon to seeing how running and leading a healthy life can change their life.” 

While Farias started running in her youth, it wasn’t until age 27 when she completed her first marathon — an accomplishment that would change her life. “I was hooked after that race,” she says. “’Go big or go home’ has been one of my favorite mottos.”

After completing other endurance events, Farias set a goal for the Franklin Mountains 50K in 2017.

“I wanted to do another ultra but I had told myself that I wanted one that I could run with no rocks or too many roots,” she says. “Well this was definitely not that experience, so many rocks. One section is called ankle breakers, ouch.  One point we were on all fours going up and over a cave, I DO NOT like heights. Oh and the 9,000 feet of elevation and descending, such an amazing experience. It was so beautiful and I never had a moment of, “’Why am I doing this?’”

Farias is continuing to set big goals for herself, including the North Face Endurance Challenge Series 50-miler on Nov. 17, 2018, in San Francisco. Her second is to complete the Speed Project with her team the following March.

“If you are not familiar with the Speed Project, you start at the Santa Monica Pier and end in Las Vegas,” she says. “It is a team of six, so my team consists of all female athletes that I will be coaching through this adventure.”

Her coaching philosophy

Farias joined the coaching team at MTA a few months ago to start working one-on-one with more runners. “I loved everything I read and heard about MTA and said this is it, my opportunity to coach more athletes with an organization that has similar values and philosophies of training,” she recalls. “I had been wanting to coach more athletes and everything came together when I saw MTA’s post.”

She brings a simple, yet powerful, philosophy to mentoring her athletes.

“Coaching is not just about their sport or what they are training for, it encompasses every aspect of an athlete’s life,” Farias says. “Running a marathon is not just about lacing up your running shoes and going out the door for a run, it involves nutrition, hydration, cross training,  recovery, sleep, mental toughness, being adaptable, learning how to manage day to day life during training periods, and so much more.” 

Farias reassures prospective clients that it’s not just elite athletes who need a coach.

“A coach can provide individualized training to meet the athlete’s needs, goals, and reduce risk of injury,” she advises. “A coach can also provide support, motivation, and expert advice on how to handle day to day life in the midst of training.”

Embracing the community

Athena with Academy member Lisa Lynn

Her goals for herself as a coach are simple yet involve the whole MTA community.

“My goal is to share my passion for running, provide my expertise and knowledge to the MTA running community,” she says. “It is such an amazing experience to coach athletes in so many places across the world. It is a great opportunity to create new friendships and expand my social network.”

When she isn’t working, coaching or running, she is helping others who also have endured traumatic experiences.

“I sit on the board for Street2Feet here in San Antonio because I know how running can help those that have gone through some very traumatic life experiences and running gives life back into every part of your being.”

To learn more about MTA Coaching Services see this page.

Speed drill

Name: Athena Farias
Hometown: Lubbock, Texas, (shhh, lol) I have lived in San Antonio since 1995.
Number of years running: 30 years
How many miles a week do you typically run: 20-25 non training, up to 60 if training for ultras
Point of pride: Franklin Mountains 50K in 2017
Favorite race distance: 13.1
Favorite pre-race or training food/drink: Training drink is Tailwind, lemon flavor mixed with Crystal Light wild strawberry caffeine packet.
Favorite piece of gear: Road is Adidas Ultra Boost shoes; trail is Nathan Vapor Airess Hydration Race vest.
Favorite or inspirational song to run to: Jesus Built my Hotrod by Ministry
Favorite or inspirational mantra/phrase: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (I have it tattooed on my forearm in Sanskrit).
Where can other runners connect or follow you:
• Instagram, @endurafitsatx
• Twitter, @runyo

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