Brazil -> Orlando -> Toledo -> KY History Half

Isabel Escobar is an expert on spinning all of the plates

Isabel Escobar is preparing for her third KY History Half.

The beautiful thing about running is that it truly attracts all sorts of people – from
elementary students to grandparents. From Kentucky natives to world travelers. Injured and healthy. Everyone is on a different path, and we love getting to know what our runners are doing and who they are.

We are pleased to introduce one of them to you! Isabel C. Escobar, Ph.D., is registered for her third KY History Half Marathon and has an interesting and inspiring story to tell. 

KY History Half: Tell us about yourself.
Isabel Escobar: I am from Brazil, and I lived in Rio de Janeiro until I was 18 years old.

Then, I moved to Orlando, Fla.; then Toledo, Ohio. And now I live in Lexington where I’m a professor of chemical and materials engineering and the University of Kentucky. My husband, Martin, is from Toledo. He’s a chemical engineer, and he works for a company called Plastic Technologies.

KYHH: And you guys have a daughter who often accompanies you at races? 
IE: Yes, she’s four. Her name is Teresa but we call her Tessa.

KYHH: How long have you been a runner? 
IE: I’ve been running since 2003 – once I became a professor at The University of Toledo. I was no longer on my feet all day, so I felt sedentary and my cholesterol started to go up. So I decided to start running, and for the first month I was able to only run around my block! Marty has been running since he was a child.

KYHH: How does a busy working mama like you keep fueled? 
IE: That is always a challenge since I love food! I am pescatarian, so my only source of protein is fish. Add to that the fact that I am allergic to shellfish, and things can be complicated. Comfort foods for me include bread and pasta, so I try to be conscious of what I eat and how I fuel. I also have a pretty sensitive stomach, so most gels are out, and the only ones that agree with me are Honey Stinger ones. Usually, pre-run on a weekday, I go with a light breakfast, and post-run with a protein shake. Recoverite Strawberry is yummy! For long runs, add multiple gels and some Sword. Otherwise, I have learned to listen to my body. During marathon training, I crave everything that contains salt to replenish what I sweat. I try to listen to my body to give it what it needs to succeed. But one major complication is that I really don’t like to cook!

KYHH: OK, so food is tough. But when do you actually fit in training?
IE: Whenever it fits! In the world pre-Tessa, I used to put in 40 miles per week during maintenance periods and go up to 60 to 80 when training depending on the event. Now, a good maintenance week involves 20 miles, and training up to 30 miles. I am very fortunate to have found here a pair of women (also moms), who are amazing runners and quickly became good friends. They are always up to early-morning runs, and on the weekends we go as many miles as we need. On weekdays I run whenever I can fit it in, and sometimes 1 to 2 miles in the morning and another 1 to 2 in the afternoon.

KYHH: You’re a KY History Half veteran. Why do you love the race? 
IE: There are so many reasons! It really does feel like a run in time as we run up to the

Course Scenes_KY History Half_AL_259
Running through the scenic cemetery is what Isabel Escobar calls a “genuine spiritual experience.”

Capitol and then way, WAY up to the cemetery. Every time, I follow the request of turning off my music when I get there out of respect, but I learned that it is a genuine spiritual experience to do so up there. By listening to only the footsteps and breathing in such a place, I feel at peace. Then, we run by the river. I could keep going, but it is easier to just say that it is so beautiful! It is also super challenging with that giant hill, and I do like a challenge!

KYHH: OK so that cemetery hill is brutal. What is the hardest overall race that you’ve done? 
IE: I always enjoy them, but a couple came to mind. First was the Oak Openings Stampede 25K in Toledo a few years ago. This is a trail race in a gorgeous and huge metropark in Toledo, in what is called the Scout Hiking Trail. What makes it difficult is that it is a trail, so there is loose soil, wooden bridges that were slippery, roots, rocks and gravel, tree debris, scratchy vegetation and other trail hazards, like stairs, and did I mention bees!? I remember finishing exhausted from paying attention and never feeling my legs as tired and sore. But I had a blast and even was in the top three in my age group, which is a 10-year group. The second one was the 2017 Rock ’n’ Roll Nashville Marathon because it was super hot and a bit hilly. I crossed the finish when the heat index was at 92. I used all of my mental willpower to finish.

KYHH: What’s the craziest place you’ve ever run?
IE: I went to Portugal a few years ago, specifically to a conference in Tomar, where there was an old aqueduct. The hotel people said it was okay to run on it, so needless to say, I went up the stairs to the actual aqueduct and ran on it. That was more fun than I can tell – it was narrow and challenging, but also a one-of-a-kind experience.

KYHH: So much history there! In your adopted home state, who is your favorite historical Kentuckian?
IE: I have two favorites. Laura Clay, who is co-founder and the first president of the Kentucky Equal Rights Association. She was a leader of the American women’s suffrage movement. And also Margaret Ingels. Since I am a professor of Engineering at UK, I have so much respect and appreciation for what she must have gone through to be the first woman engineering graduate from UK.

KYHH: Great choices! When you think of your contribution to the state’s history; down the road, how do you hope to be remembered?
IE: I would like to be remembered as someone who could help people see they can do anything they set their minds to do. To my running friends, I love to hear the aspiration and goals and then tell them that I will do whatever I can to help them reach the goals. I like to be the person who will support others in trying and believing they can. I also hope I can be remembered as an amazing professor – students know that I love my research and working with water. In water quality and water treatment. I want the public to remember me as someone they can trust with information about water and water safety.

Isabel Escobar runs the Rock ’n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon in July 2019. “Can you tell that I was sweating like crazy?! It was in the mid-70s, and the humidity was between 90 and 98 percent the entire time,” she recalled. “I had great difficulty breathing since I have asthma and had to take it super easy, which made this race my personal worst. However, I am so happy I ran it – the fact that it is a PW is no big deal since it was fun, beautiful and I love running too much to be sad because of my finish time. I have loved every single race I have ever done!”


If you’d like to nominate an awesome KY History Half runner for us to profile, please email

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