It is never an easy task for me to decide on whom to interview for this article series. All of the women involved in the OCR sport to me are “Badass,” as they are pushing themselves beyond what they thought was their limit, and inspiring those around them to be strong and healthier in their lives. In the case of Johanna Lopez, I have been fortunate to get to know her online a bit through the Canadian Mudd Queens group, and what makes her a “Badass” is not one thing, but all the little things that she has done for herself, and for others. Johanna was gracious enough to share with us her OCR history, how she has given back to the community, and how it feels to come back from an injury – her good heart and openness in the OCR community and life make her a “Badass.”
Tell us about yourself.
My journey into the OCR world begun back in 2012 when I decided to focus on working out and living a healthy lifestyle. In 2011 I signed up for a new gym after starting a new job. I was looking for a healthy way to handle the stress brought on by my corporate job and personal life, so I started working out with a trainer, my friend Adam. He asked me one day what my goal was in working out and I didn't have one except to be healthy, so he suggested an obstacle course race, he said it would be great, it would be fun so I signed up for the Toronto Spartan Sprint that June and trained towards it. It was love at first race, as I like to say. Since falling madly in love with the sport I have done numerous Spartan Races in Canada and the U.S. and have completed several Trifectas’. I just loved the challenge Spartan Race posed, the competitiveness, and eventually, the community that I have come to adore so much. I've done Tough Mudder and support many other races that take place throughout Ontario such as Mud Hero, Badass Dash, Warrior Dash, Rugged Maniac's, Polar Rush, XMan Race, etc. and have my sights set on other races I have yet to do. I've also done a few Spartan Race Hurricane Heats which led me to discover GORUCK events which planted the desire to do some more endurance events, some of which I hope to do eventually.
Have you always been athletic?!
No, I mean not at any competitive level but I did do gymnastics for a few years and growing up I was encouraged to be active in school sports, so I was, but mostly I was encouraged to love the outdoors so I grew up doing a lot of “cottaging” like most Canadian kids and camping, hiking, canoeing, white water rafting, orienteering. I'm thankful for that and all the experiences I was able to have growing up because there is nothing better than being outdoors enjoying nature.
You do a lot of Charity work – tell us about that.
Oh boy, where should I start!
I never used to talk openly about my charity work because that was a very special private part of me and any charity volunteer work I do, I do it not for the praise and applause but because I truly want to help others however as I became more involved with the OCR/running community I realized there are many others like me who love to give back so combining my two passions came naturally and it gave me the platform to spread awareness for the causes dear to my heart and engage others in charity work as well!
Someone once said to me that it seems like I fundraise for everything and everyone but that is just not true, I am a very compassionate person, and I want to help everyone but I have a few causes very dear to me, and they are
1. Helping find a cure for cancer and cancer research, which includes Childhood cancer
2. Autism Awareness
3. Supporting our Troops
4. Helping those who live in the street or shelters
5. Mental Health Awareness and
6. Anything to do with children.
As a teen, I worked as a camp counselor for many years, and I began working with special needs children into my adult years, so my heart has a special place for kids.
I have been volunteering since I was young and as an adult, I've been volunteering at local Toronto soup kitchens and shelters for many years. A few years ago I began my initiative called With Love And A Smile. Through it, I organize larger clothing, food and toy drives for these local shelters and I put together rucking events to hand out care packages to the homeless throughout the year where I invite my friends to join, and it gives them the opportunity to get involved in giving back to the community where we run and play. It makes me so happy to see them continuing to do it on their own now and in other communities.
Because I have friends and family members who have fought, continue to fight or have lost their battle to some cancer, this cause is very dear to my heart. I lost one of my best friends to Melanoma cancer, so I organize a team to walk in her Memory every year and raise funds for research specifically for Melanoma. For childhood cancer, I do it In Memory of Matthew Smith, a family friends son who was the bravest little warrior I have known and who lost his fight to cancer at the age of 6 years old. Last year my fundraising efforts were focused on childhood cancer so along with fundraising for the Toronto Sick Kids Hospital I also cut my hair to donate it and shaved it as a sign of my support to everyone in my life who has been affected by cancer. And I'm happy to say that it's finally growing back and won't be cutting it for a while.
There is a team I am also a part off, and that means the world to me, it's called JP's Team. This team is comprised of runners and non-runners, and JP's Team works together to raise funds and awareness for survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
The other important part of my charity work is raising awareness for our troops both here in Canada and in the U.S. Having family members who are veterans, and some who are still active in the Canadian military has always kept me conscious of supporting our troops but as I got involved with the OCR community and GORUCK, I learned about Team Red, White and Blue, Operation Enduring Warrior, and so many other amazing organizations and I've had the pleasure of meeting some pretty incredible U.S veterans and active duty members so that involvement came naturally.
One thing I am really excited about and would like to share with you is that I recently took a big step towards something I had been holding off on doing for a few years, and that is I applied to become a mentor to young teenage single mothers who are living in local shelters or on the streets here in Toronto. Not only was I approved as a mentor but they invited me to come on board and help them plan and grow this initiative since it's a new program which begins in the spring. I look forward to meeting the young woman or women I will be mentoring, and I hope this will be one of my biggest and proudest accomplishments that I can speak about and share with others in the future!
What's the hardest physical challenge you have had to face?!
There are a few, but the two most memorable one's that stand out are 1) the 2013 Vermont Spartan Race World Championships. That one was tough! The weather was insane like it usually is at Killington, that mountain has no mercy and having run with a friend who was injured, and later DNF's left me out on the course for a very long time with no fuel, and I was running in shorts and a tank…HA! (lesson learned) but with the help of many friends on course, I crossed the finish line and earned my Beast medal which completed a Triple Trifecta that year. The other one 2) is the GORUCK Tough I did in 2014 with a sprained wrist (dumb move I know) which was the first time I ever considered DNF'ing at an event because the Welcome Party was tough and the pain in my wrist was unbearable, but with the help of my teammates who didn't allow my head and doubts to win I pushed through and finished, 11 hours later I earned that patch! By far two of the most physically challenging events so far. I hope in the future I can add one that will top these two.
You have an “I run for” buddy – how did you get involved in this?!
I RUN 4 CHARLIE and Autism Awareness!
I am the proud runner to Charlie. My buddy Charlie is seven years old, non-verbal autistic and lives in Australia and I just love him and can't wait to meet him, we have yet to meet, but I'm planning on it soon!
In everything I do I want to do it with a purpose so once I felt that I had run enough races for “ME” I wanted to find a greater reason to continue so I found this Facebook Group, I RUN 4 Michael, which pairs you, a runner, with a child or adult with special needs or who is fighting a disease or has some challenge and you run for them and dedicate your active lifestyle to them. When I began with this program, I thought I was doing something special for Charlie, but it turns out he is the one doing something far greater for me. He encourages me and motivates me through his everyday accomplishments and overcoming everyday obstacles in his life. He has brought so much more meaning to my life than I could have ever imagined!
I know you have had to take a step back from racing – now that you are slowly getting back into it, what's your goal race for this year?
Yes, injuries and not having taken care of them right away and letting them heal properly caused me to step back for almost two years but I hope to start slowly again, so my goal race this year in OCR's is competing in the OCRWC course. Last year I volunteered and took part in the Make A Wish course, but this year I hope to qualify for the Journey Woman category and take on the complete epic course. I'm stoked!
You are a Spartan ambassador, a Ragnar Relay Ambassador – how did you get into those roles?!
I would say passion got me into these roles! I only consider becoming an ambassador for events I am truly passionate about and that I believe in, perhaps it's my sales background that has me always thinking that I can only represent a brand wholeheartedly and effortlessly if I truly believe in it!
Spartan Race introduced me to the sport of OCR, and my passion for the sport led me to become a Spartan Ambassador since 2013. I've been an Ambassador every single year for them. I love introducing people to Spartan Race and OCRs.
Along with being a Ragnar Relay Ambassador, I'm also an Ambassador (Trail Crew Leader) for the Ontario Trail Series called 5 Peaks this year. I was introduced to 5 Peaks in 2012 and fell in love with the series and with trail running. 5 Peaks are so well organized, beautiful trails, amazing directors, and the community are incredible.
Ragnar Relay has been on my radar for a few years, and while I was on body rest, I had to opt out of running Ragnar Chicago, so when they opened their ambassador program up, I jumped at the opportunity. I believe this series is incredible and changes people's life and get's them active and moving while falling in love with running.
What's the best piece of advice you can give someone who is just starting out in a healthy and fit lifestyle?!
First of all, I would let them know it's not going to be easy at first but stay committed and it will be worth it. I would also tell them that our mind is our biggest enemy so learn how to train it just as much as your body to make it strong. Mental grit will get you through a 5k, 10k or up a mountain and through obstacles, you never thought you could successfully complete. It will get you through when you are tired, unmotivated, injured and through the offseason. Also, have fun with it! Too many people think it has to be this rigid lifestyle, but it doesn't have to be. Your healthy and fit journey is your own, don't compare it to anyone else and it should consist of fun activities and fun people. Even when climbing a mountain or while running through trails, have fun, engage with others, find an activity you enjoy because then it won't feel like hard work and surround yourself with those who have the same passions as you because they will help encourage you during those days you don't feel like pushing through. They will understand!
What's a little know a random fact about you that you feel comfortable sharing?
I still get nervous at the start line of every race, whether it's a 5k or a Beast….and I am scared of heights.
What is your motivation when the going gets tough on course?
My motivation when the going gets tough on course is simple; it's my faith. It's something I have always turned to whether I'm having a good day and especially when I'm going through a tough time. It's how I talk myself out of getting in my way. I also think of all those in my life who are so proud of me and how thankful I am for the ability to be out on the course doing what I love and how proud I will be of myself after I finish. And sometimes I think of that sweet bling that waits for me at the end. Hahaha!
Do you find the OCR community intimidating for the first time OCR racer?
No, I don't because everyone is so welcoming. Everyone is out to have a fun time and to encourage others especially newbies. The OCR community wants everyone to fall in love with the sport as much as we all do. I think the only time the OCR community is intimidating is if you put too much pressure on yourself and put unrealistic expectations on those well-known athletes because they are all so down to earth and wonderful people.
Please share a quote that is your favorite and anything else you wish to share
One of my favorite quotes has nothing to do with sports or motivation; it's got everything to do with being a good human:
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou
This quote reminds me of the time I was climbing a mountain during a Spartan Beast and this guy stopped me along the way to say hello and thank me. Even though I didn't remember him at first, he said I had helped his wife during her first OCR, and they never forgot that. It's a great memory, and to me, this is what the OCR community embodies….helping others!
I wanted to say that I am truly honored to be asked to be part of this amazing series. I am so very humbled at the thought that I would even be considered to be part of the Badass Women of OCR Series so thank you. And a huge thank you to everyone who continues to believe in my abilities to crush my goals and who had supported me along the way even when I wasn't able to race. And remember, if you can't race volunteer!
If someone wants to reach out to you on social media, how do they find you?
They can reach out to me through:
Facebook: Johanna Lopez (JoLo)