Verónica Bravo: The Runner with Shark Skin
When Verónica began to walk at 7 months old, it was from this moment that her parents sensed that they were in front of someone who loved to move.
Since she was 7 years old her life has been marked by training and discipline, first for gymnastics and then for athletics. Doctors told her mother that this ¨weakling¨ should practice sport in order to strengthen her body, and from this moment she hasn´t stopped.
Verónica Bravo has emerged in just two and a half years, as one of the most important runners of Trail Running in Chile. One of her main achievements was her first place at The Coastal Challenge 2015, beating la runner Anna Frost, one of the best exponents of this discipline in the world.
She recently announced via social media that she has become the first ambassador for Salomon in Chile. She also has the support of other brands such as Suunto, Julbo sunglasses and Silva illumination accessories.
Bravo, born in the town of Talca, remembers at 18 years of age she received a peculiar phone call. It was first sergeant Juan Valdés, from the Chilean Army, who invited her to be part of the institution´s adventure team.
Together with the Marines, she tested her limits. Newspaper clippings from her time as a student of the Pontificia Catholic University of Valparaiso, called her the ¨woman of steel¨, highlighting her participation in races of 500km that involved running, biking and kayaking.
In 2006 she lived an experience that will mark her life forever. She was part of a team participating in the Patagonia Expedition Race (only race held in winter), considered one of the most difficult adventure races in the world.
During the last stages, when they were trekking through the snow, with low temperatures of around 21 degrees below zero, a situation that became critical over the hours. Veronica suffered frost bite to her ankles and to save them from amputation, they tried skin grafts.
They first tried with pieces from her own body, which were extracted from her thighs, but this failed. Then, they experimented with shark skin, whose value is extremely high for each square centimetre, and this gave the hopped results, but this was only the start of a great suffering.
Bravo was bed ridden for 4 months, without being able to move. Her only desire was to talk again, not even thinking about running or jogging. During another 4 months she used a ¨walker¨ to move and to literally get back up on her two feet.
A tough experience like this clearly forged a new personality and a new runner´s momentum. This gave her another perspective on life and another way to face it.
Trail Running World
After her recovery, this athlete decided that an alternative to adventure races could be trail running. A discipline that could provide the same connection to nature, but in a safer and controlled way.
So she debuted in the 100km at Patagonia Run in San Martin de los Andes (Argentina) and achieved third place. Veronica struggled to understand that the whole route was marked and that every few kilometres contained aid stations. She thought that this was magnificent, after her experience running through places without paths.
For Bravo, running is to flow. In each step she finds a necessary connection with her spirit and she has internalized this as a life philosophy. During races, she puts aside her watch and is guided by her sensations. ¨Use your watch during training, but during the race, let it go!¨ this is her advice.
The physical education teacher expresses that many runners who are starting out underestimate the distances and they rush into long races without the adequate preparation and implements. ¨They have to manage their anxiety, enjoy the race, and not aim for over ambitious goals and not be tied to a race plan¨.
Bravo says that she doesn’t have any secret training sessions. She trains a lot on her bike and up in the hills. One or two long runs a week and when she doesn’t want to train, she simply doesn´t. ¨I learnt that you have to listen to your body and when you feel obliged to train, you´re probably going to have a bad time and that sensation will probably last a few days¨.
Bravo´s future is here in Chile. She says she feels proud, but also has a lot of responsibility with brands such as Salomon, Suunto, Julbo and Silva who have put their trust in her. She still doesn’t have anything planned for 2016, because she is recovering from an injury and it will depend a lot on the meetings with her sponsors.
And Torrencial Valdivia Trail?
¨Last year I was in Costa Rica, with a lot of rain too. I am really motivated by races with different climatic conditions and technical trails. I like both long and short distances, no matter the type of terrain, but I am still planning my competition calendar¨.
Author: Carlos Sotomayor V. @csotomayor_
Translation: Amber Philp. @PhilpAmber
Photo: Verónica Bravo Fan Page https://www.facebook.com/Veronica-Bravo-389835584506753