“The proudest moment of my career was the day I missed the Olympic Marathon qualification time by 14 seconds. It helped me realise that my dreams are not out of reach.”
“How can you turn defeat to triumph?” I thought to myself. This young woman has the spirit and confidence of a mighty warrior.
You literally do a double take when you first meet Tonya Nero; she is petite, with a bright, infectious smile, and her training gear always funky and bright. I have seen her many times in my community in Maracas, St Joseph. She trains with the kind of focus and dedication that is enviable to anyone who admires the discipline of elite athletes.
I remember vividly the images splashed across the news and social media on her milestone achievement in the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia. She crossed the finish line at Southport Broadwater Parklands in two hours, 55 minutes, 14 seconds to secure 14th spot in the 26.2-mile race.
It was a tremendous personal accomplishment for the young woman who comes from a family of athletes, and has been doing this from age five. She is an inspiration for those persons who train tirelessly to accomplish their dreams.
The list of accomplishments for this 29-year-old, who attributes Lynette ‘Granny’ Luces, as her inspiration are undeniable. She is the National Record Holder 5,000m—16:01:69 (2011); National Record Holder 10,000m—33:11:71 (2011); National Record Holder Half Marathon—1:15:13 (2012); National Record Holder Marathon—2:43:14 (2012); NCAA All-American Cross Country (2010); T&T Female Road Runner of the Year (2012); T&T Female Road Runner of the Year (2013) (Source: ‘Tonya Nero Born to Run’, Trinidad Guardian, June 1, 2014)
With Olympic aspirations on her mind, Tonya remains focused and adheres to a strict training regime that includes weekly cycles where each week she would do two speed workouts, one long run, and on the other days she focuses on building mileage and endurance. She also incorporates core, strength workouts and yoga.
I asked Tonya what allows her to wake up every day and chase her dreams while pursuing her Masters degree in exercise physiology at Wichita University? “Spirituality plays the biggest role in my life. It is the element that holds my life together. I’ve had many struggles and I believe that I would be broken if it were not for my faith in God. Life can be confusing at times, but I continue to talk to God each day and ask Him to lead my life.”
I am not surprised as she understands that running is her gift from God, and how powerful it is to be a part of a family with so much love and appreciation for her sport.
Tonya’s dream is to motivate and inspire runners to never give up and be the best that they can be despite the challenges that they may face. “I would love to mentor young females and athletes. Each day I learn something new about the sport, and something new about life in general. I keep my experiences close to my heart and I hope to share them with others.”
Tonya compares life to the finish line of a race, ultimately, that finish line is the goal. “I look back, I gain nothing because I cannot reclaim the past. The only thing that remains is the race ahead. So even if the finish line seems far, I press on toward the end.”
You can follow Tonya online via her website tonyanero.com and social media handles @tonyanero
Jamila Cross is a triathlete, former professional footballer for Sevilla FC women’s Club Spain, and mother of three boys Tishad, Akim and Santiago. She is the founder of the Mariama Foundation, a registered non-profit organisation raising the storytelling bar for the Caribbean’s female athletes.
By Jamila Cross, email@example.com