From living rough to running tough – a Sao Paulo story

The IAAF Run 24-1 virtual relay continued its southward journey through the Americas with a second consecutive stop in Sao Paulo. And once again, there was no shortage of inspiring stories.

Organisers in Latin America’s largest city staged the second edition of their event over 24 races, attracting 723 athletes who turned out in spite of the rain that pelted the Brazilian metropolis for much of the day.

The rain didn’t dampen their spirits or slow them down much, either, with the fastest of the sections won in 4:35.

But among the most notable and inspirational runners to turn out was local star Ana Luiza dos Anjos Garcez, whose life was quite literally transformed – some would even say it was saved – by running.

Abandoned as a child along with her sister, Garcez spent the first 16 years of her life in state orphanages, before exchanging that difficult upbringing for another 20 years of living on Sao Paulo’s streets. Survival in that life involved drugs and petty theft until she was introduced to running after watching Chariots of Fire.

“I was inspired by the guy who won on the track,” she said in a recent profile on HuffPost, the same piece in which her steely focus and race day routine was described as such: “On race day, she does not like to talk to anyone. She drinks two liters of water, eats a piece of ginger and sucks on a bullet.”

She began to run, a pastime that would eventually lead from life on the streets to a career as successful and well-traveled road runner.

Now 56, she goes by the nickname “Animal”, and is a regular fixture on local, regional, national and continental road races where she continues to inspire. Today however, she didn’t have to travel far. Garcez begins most of her days by 4:30 am on the very Ibirapuera track she, and several hundred others, ran on today.


2 June 2019