A former University of Arkansas at Little Rock student-athlete, Donaghey scholar, and graduate took home the gold for the second year in a row during the 2016 Race for the Cure.
As a past UALR cross country and track and field team member, Marissa De La Paz had a leg up in the Oct. 22 competition. She started running her freshman year in 2009 until her senior year in 2013, later becoming a graduate assistant for the team. She graduated from UALR with a Bachelor of Science in biology and a Bachelor of Art in chemistry.
Although it was her second time competing in the race, De La Paz knew that she had to remain humble and focused until she reached her goal.
“The reason I started this race was because my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer,” said De La Paz, a medical student at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. “She’s like my second mom and my best friend. When she was diagnosed, it hit me pretty hard, but she stayed strong, so the race was something that I did for her.”
Having her grandmother as her motivation pushed her harder to cross the finish line first. With so many emotions swelling inside of her, it came as a surprise when De La Paz realized that she’d run her fastest race to date.
“With this race, I figured I’d just go out with the leaders and see how long I could hold on,” she said. “We came through the first mile kind of fast, the fastest that I’d ever gone. I thought this could go really well or really bad. When I turned the corner to finish and I saw 17.00, all I could think was wow. The race was perfect.”
According to De La Paz, her fastest time in college was 18 minutes and 11 seconds. For the race, she ran a record breaking 17 minutes and 34 seconds.
“I was mind blown,” she said. “I still can’t believe I did it.”
After completing the race, De La Paz was so overwhelmed with joy that she had to rethink hugging random people. She soon texted her mom, grandmother, and aunts to let them know the race’s outcome.
“My grandmother told me that I made her proud, and that’s all I wanted.”
De La Paz plans on competing in next year’s race, hoping to make it a three-peat.