RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A Richmond woman is on her way to Olympics in Rio.
Maria Elena Calle recently learned she qualified to run the marathon at the summer games, but she won't be running for Team USA. She will actually represent her home country of Ecuador.
Calle is a VCU grad and has lived in Richmond for 20 years now, so she knows Richmonders will be cheering for her too.
"For me, it's a dream," said Calle. "I'm just so grateful for every single person because it's not just me, I feel like WE made it. You know?"
Made it through years of training. A former VCU track and cross country star, Calle is now a marathon runner preparing for the grueling conditions of running in Rio.
"It's going to be hot, it's going to be humid there," explained Calle.
She's been battling the weather, but for years, also her body: a hip injury, a quad, plantar fasciitis - injuries that kept her from competing in the last summer games in London.
But each time, she's bounced back.
"It has not been easy," said Calle.
Not easy, but worth it.
"Oh, with the ups, with the downs, with lots of joy, lots of heartbreak, and everything in between - it's worth it. 100 percent worth it, 110 percent worth it!" said Calle.
Try to imagine how many laps Michael Phelps has swam. Same thing with Kevin Durant, how many basketball games has he played leading up to the Summer Games?
Calle has been running her entire life, but by the time she represents her home country of Ecuador in the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, it'll only be her fifth time ever running a marathon. But she'll also be running for her second home, Richmond, Virginia.
"It's funny that I say, 'my second home,' because when I go somewhere, even when I go to Ecuador, when I come back to my husband and my dog and my home. So it's my second home slash first home now."
Never ask a woman her age. But when she turns 41 years old later this month, more than a decade older than the average female at the US Olympic marathon trials, remember that today, she ran 24 miles for Ecuador - and for Richmond.
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