Real People, Real Fitness: Marathon Coach, Patrick Aquino


I am excited to announce a new regular series on my blog: it’s called “Real People, Real Fitness” and it’s going to feature everyday people who will share their stories and their tips. is a place where we share and learn how to build a healthful life, and we all do it differently. In the future, I’ll be interviewing a Crossfit pro/box owner, a new mom, a world traveler/food blogger, a physical therapist, a chef and more! Today, I present to you, Patrick Aquino, who has run many marathon races and professionally coached marathon runners. Check out this great story and his advice to all runners:

1)  Tell us about yourself.

Patrick Aquino / 31. I was born in the Philippines, but moved to the Bay Area before kindergarten.  I have a Bachelors of Science in Biology from California State University, Hayward, with a secondary emphasis in Chemistry. I’ve run a total of 5 full marathons (Florence, Italy 2006, Florence, Italy 2007, Napa Valley 2009, New York City 2009, Honolulu 2010) and 2 half marathons (Kaiser Permanente 2007 and 2008). I also worked for the National AIDS Marathon Training Program, assisting participants with training for marathons and half marathons, as well as assisting them in their efforts to fundraise for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

2) How did you get started running marathons?

There are many reasons why people choose to run marathons. To be honest, the reason I first started training had less to do with running and more to do with traveling to Italy. I was in a jamba juice when I noticed a pamphlet for the National AIDS Marathon Training Program. The program offered training for either a half marathon or full marathon, in either Honolulu, Hawaii or Florence, Italy. As long as a fundraising minimum was met, the training program would cover airfare and hotel accommodations. I thought, “What better way to go to Italy?”

Little did I know what kind of experience I was about to embark upon. When you surround yourself with like minded people, all with a common goal, the experience can be a powerful one. Not only were the other participants training for a long distance race, which is a feat in itself, but they were also doing all they could to raise funds for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. These were people who were looking to not only make a difference in their own lives, but were also searching for a way to change the world.

3) What are the challenges you faced when you started racing?

For people who don’t run for sport/exercise, it can be difficult to understand why people choose to do it. The early morning hours, the sometimes ungodly weather, the pain you put your body through – it’s almost masochistic. Running has always been a challenge, which is one of the big reasons why I kept at it. I don’t shy away from hard work and get a lot of satisfaction from overcoming obstacles, which running has provided many of.  A big challenge I faced early on was building endurance. Running a mile is one thing, but running 5, 10, 20 miles…it’s very daunting. The body adapts however and running 4x a week helped to build my endurance slowly, but surely. After a certain point in training, running becomes much more of a mental game. The body does what the mind believes. You often hear of a “wall” that runners face during a race. I learned that I could get past this wall if I just told myself to keep on going.

4) With your experience coaching marathon runners and running multiple races, what are your top 3 tips for marathoners and overall advice for those who want to start running:

  1. Focus on the mile you’re running, rather than the distance you have yet to run
  2. Pace yourself and stay hydrated
  3. Listen to your body.  If something hurts, don’t ignore it.  If your legs feel tight or start to twitch – stop, stretch, walk, hydrate.

Here’s a truth that many of us choose not to acknowledge: we are all runners – all of us. Whether we want to admit it or not.  for many of us, running starts almost as soon as we learn to walk. We run for sport and play, to catch planes, trains and buses…and for many of us, we run to escape our own fears and failures. As much as it is a sport, running is also a perfect metaphor for life. It’s a form of action that is far from easy (even for the most experienced of runners), but an action that propels us forward to new possibilities.

So I say – run. Whether it’s on the treadmill, around the block, on the beach, or through a park. Just run. Find the joy in it because I promise you, it’s there. Push hard, run safe, and don’t forget to have fun. You’ll not only learn a lot about yourself, but you’ll also get a killer set of legs as a result. Now that’s a winning combination!

5) What is your favorite running story?

A friend and running coach shared a story with me once and it’s one that I always share with others.
At the Honolulu Marathon – Mile 13…
Coach:  (to an AIDS Marathon participant) How are you doing? Feeling okay?
Runner:  I’m not feeling so great. I don’t think I can finish this race. I ran this race last year for my brother’s partner who died of AIDS. This year, I’m running for my brother who died of AIDS. I feel like i’m disappointing him by not finishing.
Coach:  You’re going to finish this race. I’m going to run this last half with you and I want you to tell me all about your brother and what made him special.
….at mile 26
Coach:  You’ve done so great. I’m not going to run through the finish line with you. This is your moment and I want you to savor it. You did amazing.
The coach ran ahead of his runner to get the crowd cheering and hyped up. After crossing the finish line, the runner dropped to her knees and started crying. The coach, concerned for his runner’s safety, quickly ran up to check on her.
Coach:  Are you okay?? Did you hurt yourself?
Runner:  (looking up with tears in her eyes) My brother would be so proud of me right now.
Thank you, Patrick, for taking the time to share your story and advice. I hope all of you enjoyed it as much as I did. It’s such a treat to get the inside scoop from experts like him.
Join us next time,
Thomas Ngo
Dietetic Intern
NASM Certified Personal Trainer
Facebook–The More You Ngo

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