Veronica Carreon, poses for a photo in her festive Greek attire, moments before running the Athens' Marathon. Carreon has been competing in marathons all over the world for a little more than five years.

HEIDELBERG, Germany -- Every morning by 3:45 a.m. Veronica Carreon, or "Ronnie" as she's affectionately known around the Heidelberg community, is wide awake.

While most of us are still slumbering and snoring, Carreon is already beginning her daily routine - brewing coffee, doing a little light housework and then heading out to run anywhere from six to 12 miles.

Carreon is a financial assistant for the Heidelberg Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation, and she's also an ultra marathoner, which means she competes in races where the distances are more than the standard 26.2 miles run of a normal marathon. In fact, she ran the John F. Kennedy 50 mile ultra-marathon in Maryland, not once - but twice in 2008 and 2009.

Carreon said she always loved to run when she was younger, but over the years she had given it up - that is until the fall of 2004.

"I was overweight, and did not like who I had become," Carreon said. "I remembered how running made me feel as a teenager. I used to love running that mile in junior high, high school, and one day I just got up from the couch and decided to go running."

But it wasn't easy, she said.

"It was very hard. I remember I wanted to just quit, but something just kept on telling me to just keep going, it's almost over," she said. "I can see the end, and I just kept on going. The next day I was very sore but I wanted to get up and go do it again and that's what I did."

Carreon joined the Heidelberg running club and lost 40 pounds along the way, and a little more than five years later, she hadn't slowed down. She admitted that running was a natural anti-depressant for her after a difficult divorce.

The El Paso, Texas, native said she was an introvert and "a little mouse" during her marriage and credits running with helping her come out of her shell and discover "who she really was."

Although she's competed in some 20 marathons in places like Athens, Rome, Florence, Norway and Edinburgh, Scotland, she said her favorite is the local Mannheim marathon.

If being an ultra marathoner wasn't enough to attract attention, Carreon also said she likes to dress up for her races. She's donned everything from a kilt for a race in Scotland, to a flamenco dancer's outfit and a bumble bee suit.

"Every marathon has a meaning for me," she said. "I've become a better person, a better co-worker, a better friend through running... a lot of people say I am addicted to the finish line, that I'm addicted to the endorphins. In a way I am, but it's that journey. You'll discover that there is a journey to any type of training that you take up."

Besides the chance to dazzle race spectators, with her colorful, and often creative choices of running outfits, Carreon also pounds the pavement for charity.

She continues to raise money for the wounded warriors program and she also lends her running expertise to local military units that want to train for a marathon or half-marathon.

Carreon's next event is a 24-hour race in Basel, Switzerland, where she'll be running a 1-kilometer loop over and over for 24 hours, with a goal of running 93 miles. This spring she said she will also be jump-starting her new hobby - mountain biking.

"The thing that I don't like to hear when I talk to people about running is 'oh I can't run' or 'oh my knees hurt,'" she said. "Everything hurts at one point or another in a runner's body. But we just get out there and do it, and if you just stick to it, results will come, and you can see that it does pay off."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16