Once an asthma victim, now a marathon runner 

Santa Clarita resident Jessper Maquindang made Alaska the 50th state he’s visited since 2012. Despite growing up with asthma, he ran in the June 22 Anchorage Mayors Marathon in Alaska, among 14 others. Photo courtesy of Jessper Maquindang

When Jessper Maquindang was in the second grade, he was diagnosed with asthma. His parents kept him away from any and all physical activities, they shielded him from pets for fear that dog hair or cat fur might spur on an asthma attack, and for the most part, they kept him inside. 

Of course Maquindang would want to run a marathon. 

“Those limits — I just didn’t want that to be my story,” he told The Signal over the phone following the completion of his 15th marathon on June 22 in Anchorage, Alaska. “I was inspired by the major goals of marathon runners and what they did, and I told myself, ‘I’m going to do it.’ And then I added it to my bucket list. Over time, I trained day by day, worked my way up, and then eventually reached that finish line of a marathon.” 

Jessper Maquindang of Santa Clarita grew up with asthma, but he didn’t want that to stop him from living an active life. He ran in the June 22 Anchorage Mayors Marathon in Alaska, among 14 others. Photo courtesy of Jessper Maquindang

Maquindang is a Santa Clarita native. Upon developing asthma, he’d watch other kids playing outside and wish he could join them. He’d have to accept that such physical activity, especially outside, just wasn’t in the cards for him. 

Maquindang, now 37 years old, can look back and see that his parents had his best interests in mind while he was growing up, but being stuck indoors and playing video games was not his idea of living his best life. 

“That’s probably what inspired me to take an active lifestyle as I grew older,” he said, adding that as his body developed over the years, his asthma would improve and he’d also learn to manage it to a certain extent. 

At 26 years old, Maquindang decided he’d run a marathon. But he’d have to slowly build up to it. 

“I just trained my body,” he said. “I knew that running 26.2 miles — it’s not an overnight, magic formula. It takes time, and I knew that, so I really put in the weeks and the months.”  

Maquindang started with a 5k run, and then as he felt more comfortable, he moved to a 10k. He’d go on to run a half marathon (13.1 miles), and eventually, over the course of about a year, he felt he could run a full marathon. The first one was the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon. Toward the end of the run, he saw the race ending before he finished it. 

Despite growing up with asthma, Jessper Maquindang of Santa Clarita has run in 15 marathons, including the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon in 2014. Photo courtesy of Jessper Maquindang

“When I reached the final miles, I could feel so much pain in my legs that I was getting really nervous,” he said. “So, when I finally reached the finish line, that’s where that sense of relief came from. And, of course, the joy.” 

Kaylee Gabon, Maquindang’s cousin, said Maquindang was the reason she became interested in running, too. 

“Observing his dedication to the sport for the past 11 years has been truly inspiring,” she wrote in an email to The Signal. “As someone who also has asthma, Jessper’s ability to overcome this barrier is a great reminder that running is a mental sport as much as it is a physical one. The willpower and determination that it takes to run 15 marathons is beyond impressive.” 

Maquindang has participated in marathons around the country, including the Santa Clarita Marathon, the Los Angeles Marathon, the Honolulu Marathon in Honolulu, Hawaii, the Little Rock Marathon in Little Rock, Arkansas, and the Maine Marathon in Portland, Maine. It was a dream that coincided with another goal he set for himself back in 2012, when he was creating guidebooks for vacationers to use to explore America. 

Jessper Maquindang of Santa Clarita set a goal to visit all 50 states in the country. He also vowed to complete a marathon, even though he grew up with asthma. The Honolulu Marathon in 2022 is one of 15 races he’s run. Photo courtesy of Jessper Maquindang

“My first job out of college was with a travel company,” he said. “And what that travel company did was they were a tour operator, where they gave clients opportunities to really take on the self-driving programs, where clients would rent a car and then drive across the United States.” 

Maquindang and his department were responsible for providing the information for those travelers.  

“Prior to 2012, I had only been to two states, and that was California, because I live here, and Nevada, for Las Vegas,” he said. “What I did in the beginning is I found a group tour that went across the southern states — so, from Louisiana and then Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and then all the way up to New York City.” 

He took one of those trips himself and got caught in Hurricane Sandy. The natural disaster aside, traveling was more fun than he expected.  

“That’s when,” he said, “I set the goal to check out all 50 states.”  

None of that seemed to be on Maquindang’s radar when he graduated from Hart High School back in 2005. He’d go on to study political science at California State University, Northridge, earn his bachelor’s degree there in 2009, then, in 2017, pick up a master’s degree in executive leadership from the University of Southern California.  

During the 2020 pandemic, Maquindang saw a change in workplace workflow that would prompt him to put his schooling to use. 

“In the world of leadership, what the pandemic did is it really intensified and adjusted the way we work,” he said. “Finding that sense of being a part of something — belonging, teamwork, inclusion — it’s really given me that opportunity to step in.” 

Going back to what he learned about political science, which, he said, is really a study of leadership in one form or another, he found that he had something he could offer company and team leaders looking to adjust in a post-pandemic world. 

And so, Maquindang founded Own FamiLEAD Management Consulting, which, according to the firm’s website, has the mission of helping leaders and managers build stronger teams through team-building activities, leadership effectiveness assessments, and executive coaching. 

Maquindang said he’s built many productive teams with his consulting group, adding that he’s also learned so much from the conversations he’s had with his clients.  

“The pandemic really changed the way we work and the way we connect with one another,” he said. “You really learn a lot about what the workplace needs nowadays, especially when it comes to company culture and leadership.” 

Maquindang said that what he also offers others are his own challenges and his own story where he chose a way, went that way, and is now trying to show the way. 

“The general message is, if you really set your mind to a major goal,” he said, “you can really accomplish it when you stay focused and dedicated.” 

That mindset to visit all 50 states in the U.S. proved to be successful at the end of June when Maquindang went to Alaska, the 50th state on his list, to run in the Anchorage Mayors Marathon. His final time in the 26.2-mile race was five hours and 10 minutes. Maquindang said he thought he could’ve done better, that his legs got really tired toward the end, but he’s ultimately satisfied that he finished.  

His cousin Gabon applauded him for the accomplishment: “He provides motivation to new runners to chase their goals, challenge their previous inhibitions, and thrive despite obstacles.” 

Of the 50 states Maquindang has visited, he’s run marathons in Arkansas, California, Maine, Nevada and, of course, Alaska. Now, with those 50 states behind him, he said he has a new number to hit. 

“The idea of seven continents has crossed my mind,” he told The Signal. “In the marathon world, though, I’m looking forward to exploring further the ultramarathon world.” 

The ultramarathon covers longer distances than the 26.2-mile traditional marathons. These range from 31 miles up to the longest one, the Self-Transcendence 3,100-Mile Race in Queens, New York, of, you guessed it, 3,100 miles. Maquindang has already run two 31-mile ultramarathons. He said that 3,100-mile one would probably not be the one he jumps into next. 

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