For years, Ricardo Del Pilar Ramirez has worked as a licensed welder to provide for his family in their hometown of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico.
Ramirez is a 52-year-old family man who enjoys spending his off time with his children and who once enjoyed competing in his community’s soccer tournaments just for fun. In 2017, the tables turned when he fell off a ladder while working and broke his back leading to a blood transfusion which is believed to be the source that started his journey with cancer. In 2019, Ramirez underwent surgery to have several cancerous tumors removed and a significant portion of his foot that required three of his toes to be amputated. He was in remission for several months before a relapse occurred spreading to his lungs.
This month, Ramirez is taking a brief break from his chemo treatment after a tumor developed on his shin, to undergo his second surgery to amputate his leg from the knee down. Due to his ongoing medical treatments, Ramirez has been unable to work leaving his wife, Anilu, and their 18-year-old-son, Julian, to support the family, but they have had their hours drastically cut due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
That’s when Willy Utrilla decided to take matters into his own hands to help his brother-in-law by creating the fundraiser, “Running for Ricardo.”
“Unfortunately, I cannot be there to support them during this time of need, but I feel called to do something,” said Utrilla. “Ricardo is a true family man. He’s always worked hard to provide for his family and would do anything for anyone. My family needs to focus on helping Ricardo heal rather than stressing over their bills."
Utrilla is a 33 -year-old native of Mexico who developed a passion for running eight years ago. He immigrated to the United States 15 years ago and has lived in Commerce for 10 years, where he is often seen running in the downtown area.
During the fundraiser, Utrilla attempted to run 200 miles in 48 hours along a half mile trail loop behind Strange Duck Brewing Company in Commerce, keeping at a pace of 4.25 miles per hour.
“It would take 400 laps around the trail to complete the 200 miles," said his wife, Susan Utrilla. "He has run 100 miles before, but he has never attempted a 200 miler or any run over 100 miles..
W. Utrilla says, "If you know me, you know there are a few things that I love…God, my family, helping others and running. God has given me the ability to do great things with my body and I want to use this blessing to the best of my ability. I’ve found that running brings people together, inspires people and can create change."
During the ultra-run, many of Utrilla’s family, friends and community supporters cheered him on and kept him company as they took turns to pace him along the trail, both day and night, rain and shine. Some of Utrilla’s friends even camped out over the weekend while having a cookout and listening to live bands play at the site.
“I really enjoyed everyone’s company while running,” said Utrilla. “I had more support than I ever imagined. Many of my friends paced me and I had many supporters from the community which I had never met that ran with me as well.”
Ultra-runners endure some pretty extreme conditions that not only push them to their mental limit but take a toll on their body both inside and out, and many have reported seeing hallucinations attributed to sleep deprivation. Utrilla said on some of his past ultra-marathons he has seen a black dog, the size of a wolf, running around his feet while running along the trail and a few years back while participating in the Chattanooga 100 he spotted a young girl on a hill and a lady pushing the girl’s tricycle. “What’s crazy is I actually spoke to the lady,” he said. “She was not there, it’s just your mind playing tricks on you and that’s why it’s important to have someone to pace you. I didn’t hallucinate during this run since my friends helped keep me awake. Instead of focusing on being tired they kept my mind busy, so I was able to focus on my goal.”
Utrilla completed 134 miles and went 45 hours without sleep.
“I only slept for about two hours twice during the two days,” he said. “Even though I have never attempted more than 100 miles I wasn’t in any pain during the run, however, I have never had so many blisters on my feet in my life.”
Utrilla took a two-day recovery period to rest and he was back on his feet by the second day and he was back to running again on the third day of his recuperation. Utrilla said although he didn’t make his goal of completing the 200 miles, he still believes the fundraiser was successful for the cause, and that’s to help his brother-in-law.
“The run is not about me, the run is about Ricardo and him getting the help that is very much needed during this time,” said Utrilla.
The event raised a total of $7,241 through the PayPal pool which was set up through Facebook where 100 percent of the proceeds were sent to Ricardo and Anilu to help pay for medical expenses, purchase medications, pay bills and buy groceries for the family.
“The fundraiser raised more than I ever would have imagined," Utrilla said. "I am very thankful to Drake Scott of Strange Duck Brewery for offering his space to allow me to have the fundraiser and all those who participated and donated to help Ricardo. It is a true blessing.”
Although the polls have closed donations are still being accepted. For more information, contact Utrilla at 706-372-4168 or via email at email@example.com.
To follow Ramirez’s journey and updates, visit Running for Ricardo on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/586762005346810/?active_tab=discussion.