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How Jinghuan Liu Tervalon Balances Running, Writing, and Being a Mom

A Los Angeles–based runner and semifinalist for the Brooks Runfulness Project, this Oiselle Volée member won $25,000 and hopes to bring visibility to the AAPI community through her book.

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In March of this year, Jinghuan Liu Tervalon penned a letter to her fellow runners after Robert Aaron Long killed eight people in three Atlanta spas. “This could’ve been me,” she wrote in reaction to the attack that targeted Asian Americans.

Since the pandemic started she had already been re-evaluating her priorities. Like most people, she says she had been chasing bright and shiny things. She’d often wonder if she was checking off her boxes: “How am I advancing in the corporate world? How am I getting a promotion? Am I getting a salary increase?”

As anti-Asian and American Pacific Islander sentiment became more visible during the pandemic, (including experiencing more harassment herself while running) she knew that she was asking the wrong questions. “Those things don’t matter,” she says. “I need to be doing things for my people and if I don’t, there’s not a whole lot of people that can do this.”

She wants to be a voice for AAPI people, women of color, and immigrants like her. “That’s what a leader is,” she says. “It’s being a servant, lifting others, helping others.”

She’s doing that in the form of storytelling. Her book will address some of the cultural barriers to running that Asian people experience by telling the stories of AAPI runners—stories that have largely gone untold.

RELATED: That Could Have Been Me: An Open Letter to Teammates From an Asian American Runner

A Day in the Life

Tervalon keeps a busy schedule with a capital B. She’s on a seven-day-a-week running schedule, getting out the door early in the mornings before she starts working her full-time job as the global senior customer growth and insights lead for the Coca-Cola Company. She works until 5 p.m., takes a little break, and then spends 30 to 40 minutes working on her book project. Friday afternoons are dedicated to really cranking on the book, inviting runners to her home to hear their stories and share a meal.

Weekends are for family (she has two kids), rest, and a long run. “Sunday afternoon is another focused writing day,” she says.

Tervalon during a workout
(Photo: Art Hernandez)

Her trick to juggling so many roles? Focusing on one thing at a time and keeping tasks separated. “When I’m at work, I’m solely focused on work and I try not to do the book project,” says Tervalon. “I always try to have big chunks of time like Friday afternoon, Sunday afternoon to really write.”

But she also gives herself grace to fail, joking that this column could be called “How She Gets It Done. . . Or Not.”

“Just because I look like I’m productive, I can do a lot, doesn’t mean that I get everything done,” she says. Her house is a mess. She’s not a PTA parent, she says.

“I don’t do everything. I do pick my battles. And with the pressure that women are given, and I do have to say it is real because when men make mistakes, they’re given so much grace and we as women and especially women of color are held to a different standard, a higher standard, like we can’t make mistakes. So this is precisely why we have to give ourselves more grace,” she says.

Her Support Team

Tervalon acknowledges that her husband, Jervey, is why she’s able to do as much as she does. A writer himself, he is her first reader. “He’s also the one driving the kids around and making dinner and I can’t tell you how blessed I am,” she says.

Even so, there are still moments where she feels buried by the work.

She recently received a note from Tianna Bartoletta when she ordered the Olympian’s new memoir that said: “Jinghuan, as long as we keep going, as long as we refuse to lay down and die, we will advance in running, in life, and in our constant fight for what’s right.” After having a moment of self-doubt, it was enough to revitalize her. “I can pace myself as long as I’m not dead,” she thought. “Yes, I’m going to struggle mighty, but I also have my husband. I have tons of running friends who support me.”

Jinghuan Liu Tervalon smiling, sitting in grass

Pushing Herself

Tervalon is excited to get back to in-person racing. Currently she has the California International Marathon on her calendar for December 5. “I’m looking forward to training for that, looking forward to getting faster and stronger,” she says.

She’d like to set a PR in that race, but just finishing the race feeling strong would be good enough. “2020 was such a weird year and even though I put in a ton of mileage, I haven’t been doing any race specific training,” she says. “So, we’ll see. This is where I’m going to give myself grace.”