Chaski Athlete Spotlight: Ivan Pilamunga (Quito, Ecuador)

March 5, 2021

This week, we continue our series highlighting our Chaski-coached athletes, and head way south, just past the equator, to meet Ivan Pilamunga. A resident of the eternal-spring, mountainous city of Quito, Ecuador (located 9,300 ft above sea level), Ivan is an engineer and found a love for trail and mountain running more than 10 years ago.

Ivan and Chaski founder, Tyler Andrews, go way back; the two met in 2013 while Ty was living in the Ecuadorian Capitol. Chaski's mission is to empower athletes and foster community all around the world and we're stoked to be working with athletes like Ivan. Below, we asked him some questions about his story as both a person and a runner.

How long have you been running, and why did you first fall in love with the sport?

I began running about 10 years ago. Like many Ecuadorians, I grew up playing football (or soccer as you call it in the USA!). I was a good player but started running to get in better shape and improve my stamina. At first, I was just jogging a few times a week, but then I decided to enter my first road race (a 10km in Quito) and was hooked.

I stopped playing so much football and began to do more running. I joined a club here in Quito led by Antonio Lopez and began to learn more about training and loved the process of improving my times.

Over the years, I’ve met many inspirational athletes, including [Chaski founder] Tyler Andrews who has come to Quito many times for training. We first met in the Ibarra 10K in 2013 - 7 years ago!

Since then, I have run road, track, mountain, and trail. A bit of everything. I have done my first ultras and loved them. I live on the edge of the city near the forest and run every day through the trees and trails up into the mountains, up to 4000m+ (13,000+ ft).

I really fell in love with the mountains and forests and that is what running is all about for me. I love to push my limits while surrounded by the amazing nature here in my country.

Why Chaski? What part of our collective's philosophy and mission spoke to you most?

I’ve always enjoyed running with my groups here in Quito, but right now it is very complicated to train together because of the coronavirus situation. I like that Chaski emphasizes community and I’ve enjoyed getting to know some of the other athletes and coaches, even from afar. I hope that they can all come to Quito so we can run together soon!

What does the word Chaski mean to you?  

The Chaskis were my ancestors, no doubt about it. Even when I was a soccer player, I loved to run and now that I’m running in the mountains, I can tell that it is in my DNA.

[Editor's note: the chaskis were the Incan runner-messengers that held the empire together some 500 years ago by delivering messages across vast swaths of mountainous, rugged terrain.]

I love that you guys are bringing this word into the spotlight. More people should know about the chaskis because they were really the first trail runners in the world.

Being a chaski is about pushing your limits and being able to hold your own in the mountains, no matter what.

What are your long-term goals for yourself as a runner?

I want to someday run a race of 100 miles or more, maybe the UTMB or Western States in the USA. I want to keep pushing how far I can go and how hard I can push myself.

I am excited to run with my daughter when she is older!

What has been your most meaningful experience as a runner?

Definitely the people I have met through the races I’ve run. I’ve met so many people from different parts of the country and even abroad. People from the USA and Kenya and Venezuela. It’s so great to have running to bond over with all of these different people.

Favorite place to run?

Probably the forests on the side of Pichincha Volcano. There is a trail very close to my house that runs through the Eucalyptus trees, starting around 3000m (10,000 ft) and climbing above the treeline. You can run all the way to the top of Rucu Pichincha at 4700m (15,400 ft)!

Favorite race of all time?

There is a race in a town nearby in the cloud forest called Baños de Agua Santa. There they have a race of about 80km (50 miles) and it is a true adventure. Lots of mud, river crossings, steep climbs and drops, navigating in the dark. It is a full experience!

Favorite workout you've done since starting to work with Chaski?

Hills day! I love working hard uphill and then turning around and running back down. I’ve done a workout where we continue up for a certain amount of time and try to get farther each one. This was very tough up here, but very good. I love getting stronger on hills!

Want to learn more?

We’re stoked you want to get in touch! Our real, live human staff of elite athlete-coaches will get back to you as soon as we can.

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