Jeremiah Maestre: a Filipino Runner with Big Dreams and an Even Bigger Heart | Runner Spotlight Series
Jeremiah Maestre is a Filipino-born Orange County runner and martial artist, a father of two, and a man with big dreams and an even bigger heart. He’s helped build boxing gyms across the US and coaches combat sports fighters and runners alike. This year, he’s heading to the Marathon des Sables to push himself further than ever before.
Written & edited by Pavlína Marek
Growing Up in Sports
When Jeremiah Maestre was three years old, his family came to San Francisco. He grew up in the Bay Area playing basketball with other kids. The game stuck with him through high school and a child’s play turned into an almost-adult’s aspiration. Maestre graduated high school with a dream of becoming a professional basketball player.
However, once he left his sheltered community to try and play for small collegiate teams, Maestre found out that others played at a whole another level.
After a few unsuccessful tries, he decided to switch sports. At 18 years old, he turned to mixed martial arts, a move he calls a “big swing.”
“Manny Pacquiao was a famous boxer and really blowing up at the time,” he said, citing the cultural influence that probably helped drive this decision.
A few fights and tournaments later, Maestre found his new passion.
“I fell in love with boxing,” he said. “I wanted to pursue a career in boxing… I wanted to compete professionally. So I dropped out of college, fully dedicated to boxing.”
Once out of college, Maestre needed to “make money and be an adult.” He had to reorganize his life and start relying fully on himself. That meant finding a good job.
“So I started coaching people that wanted to use boxing to get in shape, just in the fitness realm,” he said.
Coaching, Competition, and Community
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“I improved technically with my boxing but I really found a good stride coaching it to the everyday people,” he said. “I was always an athlete and a coach as I started my career, but found more momentum through the coaching.” Thus, Maestre got a job offer to go to New York and “align with people to help share boxing around the world.”
In New York, in partnership with an “amazing group fitness studio” Rumble, Maestre helped open 13 locations throughout the country. During that time, he still competed professionally, training “under a two-time world champion” in Brooklyn. Then the pandemic hit.
With all the studios closed, boxing classes were taught in the digital form and Maestre put his competitive boxing career on hold as he had to move back to California. Amid the uncertainty that 2020 had presented, coaching proved to be the way to go once more. Peloton approached Maestre with a request to “help them design their boxing program and work with their instructors to put out more boxing [classes].” At the time, there were over 7 million members.
Even though it was a “great opportunity,” Maestre found “emptiness on the competitive side.” Unable to find a coach he’d be satisfied with after his move, “there was a void I needed to fill when it came to my competitive boxing,” he said. After moving from basketball to martial arts, he was, once more, at a crossroads.
“From basketball to mixed martial arts, to boxing, I’d always wanted to compete as a professional. Although I was still an amateur I would train like a professional. So I started running. Because I didn’t like running.”
Don’t Like Running? That’s Exactly why You Should Do It.
“I was in really good boxing shape. [It was] the last leg of me trying to compete and I didn’t end up getting the professional fight that I wanted. It was still the end of the year 2022,” Maestre said. “I wanted to do something that year to, again, fill that competitive void—and it wasn’t competing against others but competing against myself… So I started running—because I didn’t like running. It was very difficult for me.”
He felt that his body type, the way he was built from and for boxing, hindered endurance running. However, that didn’t change anything; he was going to run come hell or high water. No such thing as giving up existed for Jeremiah Maestre. He took on the challenge and literally ran with it.
Maestre found himself in Maui, where he’d traveled a lot since he was a child, with a whole free day and no plans. Instead of relaxing on the beach, he decided to get up at 5 a.m. and run a marathon. It was as unplanned as it was unofficial and it took him over six hours.
Despite—or maybe thanks to—the tough challenge the run had turned into, Maestre noticed that his mind was in great shape. As the run mentally challenged him, all the years he’d spent training in martial arts came into play to keep him moving.
“It really built my mental strength because, during those six hours running, it never crossed my mind to stop. It never crossed my mind to get an Uber or call my wife to come pick me up. I was always going to get the job done.“
Maestre was very proud of himself for completing the marathon. However, he hasn’t fallen in love with running yet.
Still don’t Like It? Just Keep Going.
Fast forward to about March 2023, a few months later, and Maestre is signing up for the Los Angeles Marathon. One of his clients chose it as their goal race so, naturally, Maestre said, “I’ll run it with you.”
He decided he’d prepare for it. He asked one of his friends from Peloton to help him train and got “the first glimpse of what marathon training was like.” Back then, he hadn’t yet done enough research to understand all the nitty-gritty details of marathon training. Tempo runs, pacing, heart rate zones,… it was still a foreign land. Maestre ended up getting hurt.
“I pretty much ran that race damn near no training again. [It was] extremely painful,” he said.
After finishing the LA Marathon in about five hours, his time was better even with the little training he had done. A couple of months later, “I started running just on my own again, not falling in love with it yet.”
“And then something clicked in me that said, ‘I want to actually prepare to run the best I possibly can for this, really giving my full attention.'”
Having run his solo Maui Marathon in December, and the LA Marathon in March, he decided to do his third—and best yet—marathon, the Orange County Marathon.
… You’ll Eventually Fall in Love.
Boxing, once again, played a big role. Just like with mental toughness for running, it also influenced how Maestre dealt with training.
“I came to treating these marathon preps like a fight camp,” he said. “Every little detail matters.”
Maestre ran the O.C. Marathon faster than the LA Marathon, in a little over four hours.
“As I became obsessed, I said, ‘What’s the next one?’ It just so happened I ran in Maui, which was an iconic place for me growing up. I ran in Orange County, which is where I live. I had to get another iconic place. I said, ‘Let me run the San Francisco Marathon. I grew up in that area. That’s where I first immigrated.”
Thus, Maestre spent his first year of running by revisiting places of importance.
(And It Might Become a Life-Long Affair)
Leading up to the San Francisco Marathon, Maestre didn’t miss a single workout. He trained six days a week, sometimes twice a day. He nailed his strength training and recovery, discipline leading him through this “phenomenal” preparation period all the way to a “phenomenal race.”
“I had a great experience,” Maestre said. “The city was beautiful that day.”
With a 3:47 finishing time, all the preparation paid off. “And I completely fell in love with it.” Maestre didn’t stop there.
“Tying into San Francisco, running these marathons the first year in all these iconic places that meant so much to me, it was only fitting that I had to run in New York,” he said.
He credits his New York City Marathon 3:43 finish to his Peloton friend and coach Becs Gentry. The marathon tour of the most significant places of Maestre’s life was complete, just like his transition into a runner.
“I fell in love with running marathons and the preparation and endurance training,” he said. “I love the training element of it. I love how it tests my mental force. It’s similar to what combat sports did for me. And now, in April of 2024, I’ll be running the Marathon des Sables, which is a 250-kilometer ultramarathon through the Sahara Desert.”
“We have big hearts and relentless work ethic.”
… Big Goals.
Maestre signed up for the Marathon des Sables in June 2023. Through his recent races, he has been slowly but surely laying the foundation for the big run.
“I’m gonna want to mention her for a third time: my coach Becs,” Maestre said. “I’m very grateful for her because she’s helped me prep for five marathons, laying this foundation to lead up to the MDS, which has been incredible training camp so far.”
Maestre has completed roughly three demanding months of this ‘training camp’ and two even bigger ones lay ahead. From the February Surf City Marathon, he’s headed straight into a 50k ultramarathon in San Diego. It will be his very first ultramarathon.
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Maestre also said that “obviously,” he’s a little intimidated and anxious. Even though it’s “just a 5k more than a traditional marathon,” there’s a certain significant climb that makes him nervous. On top of that, for him, this 50k is a training run, which means there won’t be any taper period leading up to it, as is the norm for most races.
“But I’m excited,” he concluded. “I love eating while I run.”
Why Marathon des Sables?
Maestre came across Marathon des Sables more or less by chance. At the height of his competitive boxing career in New York, among building businesses and coaching professional fighters, his old boxing training partner brought the topic up. This April, the two of them will toe the MDS starting line together.
“After both our boxing careers, we get to tackle this together, which is incredible,” Maestre said.
Training for Marathon des Sables
“I think it’s always cool to see, regardless if it’s me or somebody else, somebody work hard towards something and see what happens,” Maestre said. Needless to say, he’s working hard towards his dream of finishing Marathon des Sables.
Roughly a year ago, he ran about 20 miles a week. Nowadays, he’s putting in up to 70 miles a week. Many of these miles include resistance training. Maestre runs on sand, wears a heavy backpack, does long treadmill climbs, and tests many different kinds of fuels, mimicking race conditions.
“They don’t owe us anything,” he says about races. “I could work as hard as possible, be the most prepared I could be, and it may not yield me the results I want. But it’ll always teach me something new about myself or about running and racing,… I could go on and on.”
A significant part of his preparations is planning to be away from his family and explaining to his kids why he’ll be gone for such a long time.
“The Best Things in Life Are Free”
Running can be an expensive sport, especially when the distances grow. However, at its core, it’s also basically free. All one needs is a pair of shoes.
“It’s the priceless memories that we’re creating here,” Maestre said. “I think about all the important things that truly give me fulfillment and happiness and make me feel full. That void I was trying to fill from competitive boxing that I missed when I moved from New York? Running filled that void.
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It’s funny the things that fill us up are free, the best things in life. Running every day outside in the sunshine? That’s free. Being present, spending time with my kids and my wife? That’s also free, they don’t charge me to hang out with them. Running has really put things into perspective for me and I’m grateful for it. Hence why I fell in love with it.”
According to Maestre’s words, nobody can truly dislike running long-term. Eventually, they’ll “end up falling in love with it in their own individual ways.” The marathon preparations were what drew Maestre in—”and I fell in love with everything else,” he said.
Do Fighters Transition Well into Endurance Sports?
Maestre brought up a question on Instagram only to have to answer it himself; do fighters transition well into endurance sports?
“Yes, definitely,” he replied simply.
According to him, martial artists and endurance runners share one crucial thing: mental toughness. During his fighting career, he “got knocked down a lot.” However, he never once failed to get back up.
“This is one of my, I would say, superpowers,” he said. “I have this ability to always get up after getting knocked down. To be relentless and keep coming after the goal that I want. Fighting has taught me so much of that and that’s translated into running… I feel like MDS will really challenge that skill set.
Jeremiah Maestre: The Ultimate Coach
Coaching fighters and runners alike, Maestre has a unique set of experiences he can combine to help his athletes reach their goals. Some things are very similar, like the difference in each athlete’s abilities, experiences, and skills. Others required a little adaptation in his coaching methods.
Final Words from Jeremiah Maestre
“If there’s anything the readers take away from this, it’s… anything you do, you do it to the best of your ability,” Maestre said.
This conviction comes from his Filipino culture and background, however, living in New York “really ironed this out” for him.
“Whether it’s running, whether it’s coaching, whether it’s being a family man, a parent, a friend, doing a simple interview like this, anything,… you do it to the best of your ability.”
According to Maestre, it’s not very common to “see a combat athlete transition to endurance training.”
“That’s why I’ve been adamant about documenting the journey, the highs and the lows, most of the things that I am not that good at, and how I try to conquer them,” he said. “I know every individual runner has an incredible story to get out there. Thank you for sharing mine.”
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