Episode: 8

The First Mile in Running and Startups

Juan Medina,

Founder, Lalo

In this episode, Chacho is joined by Juan Medina, the Founder of Lalo, a solution for preserving family memories, bringing people together, and creating a safe space for people to share about their families and their memories. Together they discuss getting started with running from challenges to benefits and more.


Highlights from their conversation include:

  • Juan’s background and career journey (2:46)
  • How Juan started running (5:16)
  • Running trails (9:41)
  • Mental health benefits of running (11:17)
  • New runner questions (12:23)
  • Juan’s favorite thing about running (14:12)
  • How running affects work (15:17)
  • Physical activity as self care (16:30)
  • Balancing running and founder responsibilities (18:30)
  • Misunderstandings about running (19:25)
  • When you don’t feel like running (22:07)
  • Quick-fire round: younger self book recommendation, dream job as a kid, first job, running is ___, one song repeat, go-to running app, self accomplishment, favorite self attribute (23:25)


Backstage Capital is a VC firm that boasts one of the largest portfolios of underrepresented founders in venture. To learn more about Backstage, visit backstagecapital.com.


Chacho Valadez 0:08
Hello, hello, everyone. Welcome to Running in Public. This is the weekly podcast that empowers you to build your running routine while also making strides in your career. I’m your host, Chacho Valadez, and this is my first ever podcast. I’m so so happy about it. In each episode, I sit down with a startup founder, operator, or leader to talk about their experience of running while they also build and run their companies. You’ll walk away feeling empowered to run your next mile while also making strides in your career. And honestly, we support any form of movement on the podcast that suits your lifestyle. So whether you like to run, walk, bike, or swim or whatever it might be, we’re all in this together.

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Hello, everyone. Welcome back to Running in Public. I’m really excited for today’s episode, because we have Juan Medina today. He’s the founder of Lalo, which is a solution for preserving family memories, bringing people together, and creating a safe space for people to share about their families and their memories.

One of the reasons I’m so excited is because Juan is a new runner, literally just started this year, and so he’s gonna have a great perspective in terms of what it’s like to just get started running. Juan, thanks for joining. We’d love to hear a little bit more like about yourself and a little bit about your life story as well.

Juan Medina 2:32
Yeah, for sure. Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to talk about my super young running career here. But yeah, so a little bit about myself. Originally, I’m from South America, I was born in Brazil. My parents were from Bolivia, and Colombia. So at a young age moved around quite a bit. So I lived in Colombia and then moved to the US when I was five and moved to Louisville, Kentucky, of all places. And I loved it there. But just kept moving around for different reasons school and my parents’ jobs and things. And so ended up going to school on the East Coast, University of Delaware, and then moved to the Midwest where my parents were living and started my career in Chicago. So loved it there, ended up going to business school, got into health care after business school and really love that space of like being able to help improve the healthcare system, which I learned is easier said than done. But tried that for a few years, and then decided I wanted a bigger challenge. So I made the leap into tech, and so joined Amazon in the end of 2012. And so that was quite a journey to see that company take off and in between there got married had a baby. And yeah, fast forward now. I was at Amazon about eight years and then decided to make a startup leap, which I did last March. So yeah, that’s kind of my quick life story.

Chacho Valadez 4:10
Thanks for sharing. Before we get into the running stuff, how’s the transition been from working at a place like Amazon, which is just massive, one of the biggest tech companies in the world to then starting your own company?

Juan Medina 4:24
It’s been a big change. But I think honestly, a lot of Amazon operates like small little startups within this big ecosystem. Then, having been working from home for like a year maybe before I made the leap made the transition a little easier, but certainly it’s been, you don’t have the net, the comfort of like, a big company taking care of you. And you’ve got you have to like build the team and the culture on your own. Some of the things I took for granted in corporate has been a big learning curve, but it’s been great so far.

Chacho Valadez 5:07
When was the first thought that came in your head in terms of “I want to try this whole running thing out?” And when did you get started?

Juan Medina 5:19
We got a dog. She’s now like two years old and so like last year, I started walking with her like every morning, and it was nice to like, just be outdoors. And it did a lot for my mental health as well, just to get out there. And so that’s when I first started kind of thinking about it. I’d see obviously, a lot of joggers and runners, and I was like, I don’t know if I can do that. But that’s kind of where it all started.

Chacho Valadez 5:45
That’s cool. And how long would you walk for usually?

Juan Medina 5:48
Usually, I would do a minimum couple of miles a day. And then on the weekends, I go a little longer.

Chacho Valadez 5:56
I’m sure the dog loved that. What kind of dog is that?

Juan Medina 5:59
She’s a lab, so if you don’t walk her, she goes nuts, so it’s a nice incentive to be out.

Chacho Valadez 6:08
Right. So you started with walking, and then had the thought of running? Yeah. And when did you actually start running?

Juan Medina 6:17
Yeah. So funnily enough, at the beginning of the year, maybe at the end of December, I saw a tweet from Rubin Harris from Career Karma, who was trying to organize people to get into a Strava group with a goal of like 1000 miles for the year. And I was like, oh, man, that sounds crazy. But first of the year, I’m like, Okay, I think I’ll give it a shot. And so that’s kind of how things kicked off.

Chacho Valadez 6:45
That’s cool. Yeah, we had Reuben Harris on, I believe, the third episode, and we talked about that 1000 mile challenge. Yeah. And I know, I think he did a good job of galvanizing people to just get started. And because it does definitely feel like a daunting goal for sure. What’s your experience been like so far running sort of as a new runner?

Juan Medina 7:07
In the beginning, it was super hard, I think, just to create the habit every morning. And so, I think for me, it was just kind of like, transitioning from that leisurely walk to like, Okay, we’re gonna just start jogging now. So that’s kind of where I just started, like, hey, if I can just do one or two miles a day, just a simple jog, nothing too crazy, then, then I can start there. So that’s the habit that I kind of started the build.

Chacho Valadez 7:38
Yeah, that’s cool. Whenever I’ve wanted to try to run for in the past, I have always been like, I need to go out, I need to run three or four or five miles. And like, doing that I’m not doing a good job. But it really does start as simple as like, half a mile, quarter-mile a mile. And that sort of like building that up and building your mileage up over a longer period of time.

Juan Medina 8:06
For sure, and the app and the group definitely encourages me because I’m like, oh, I don’t want to be at the bottom of the list here.

Chacho Valadez 8:17
Oh, sure. I know I’m at the bottom of the list.

Juan Medina 8:21
Get up there. Being in the Seattle area there’s like so many nice trails and things around here. So that’s, that’s been the other benefit of getting me to enjoy the things that have been around me for years that I haven’t really been able to enjoy.

Chacho Valadez 8:37
Yeah. Has there been anything about running that surprised you so far?

Juan Medina 8:45
The thought of running more than a mile at one point in my life was like, “Ha, I don’t even think I can do that.” I think how the body kind of adapts relatively quickly— like, last weekend, I did my longest run, it was like five miles. Not blazing banks, not blazing fast by any means, but I was like, “Oh, I could do this.” And it wasn’t so bad. I think there’s that mental barrier, like breaking these, these barriers and being like, Okay, that wasn’t so bad next time maybe I can go a little farther.

Chacho Valadez 9:26
Sure, yeah, and it gives you that vote of confidence towards yourself in terms of being able to be like, Oh, I’ve done this before, and I can definitely do it again.

Juan Medina 9:36
Right, right.

Chacho Valadez 9:38
Do you primarily run on trails? I’m in Michigan, and so there is a little bit of trail running, but it’s all sort of flat, but I know trail running in the like Pacific Northwest has to be just really, really beautiful. So yeah, do you run on trails or is it primarily like a bike path?

Juan Medina 9:59
I do both, but I would say primarily, it’s like a bike path that cuts along kind of this little river and dumps into Lake Washington. But we do have some kind of forest, the area by our house. And so I’ll let the dog off the leash and kind of run the trail, which is just a lot of fun. But yeah, it’s nice to kind of vary it up a little bit.

Chacho Valadez 10:27
Yeah. Do you take the dog with you running at all? Outside of just that?

Juan Medina 10:32
I try to, but she can be a little stubborn sometimes. Like, sometimes she’s just like, now I’m not doing this. It’s like, okay, I’m gonna have to drop her off.

Chacho Valadez 10:44
Right, and that kind of puts a damper on the entire run.

Juan Medina 10:50
Exactly. Sometimes, she’s up for it, other times, not so much.

Chacho Valadez 10:56
Yeah. You mentioned how you started walking when you got the dog a few years ago, and how it helped your mental health. What’s been sort of the more surprising things with, basically, it’s just movement and helping with the mental health and how does it help you?

Juan Medina 11:16
For me, it’s nice to just have that routine every day and the carve out that space of like, Hey, I’m not going to be on a screen or on my phone. And just out there enjoying nature and moving. And, so like for me, it’s been nice and I don’t listen to podcasts or anything. I just kind of run. And so it’s just been nice to be unplugged for a little bit. It’s meditative cause you’re in the moment and there are no distractions. So for me, it’s been nice both physically and mentally.

Chacho Valadez 11:58
Yeah, I think almost every guest that’s been on the show has said running is meditative, which is really cool, and I definitely agree. Are there any sort of things that you’re still curious about? Or like, what some of your bigger questions that you have as a new runner, and as you’re trying to hit this 1,000-mile goal?

Juan Medina 12:23
Some of the things I’ve been trying to research through YouTube and Google is like, what is the right form? I’m kind of self-conscious of like, am I even doing this right? Can you do it wrong? I don’t know. Like, yeah, some of that, I think, also different types of stretches and things because I find sometimes I get shin splints and that can be painful. So I’m like, how do I manage those sorts of things?

Chacho Valadez 12:58
Yeah, I know, unlike the shin splints front type thing, it’s like, yeah, a little bit about, like taking easier runs, and not pushing yourself as hard. And then doing cross-training stuff. So like the walking or maybe riding a bike one day, or instead, or playing soccer or basketball or something different that then the running. And then I actually had someone who ran in college, tell me not to worry about form, but then other people really put a big emphasis on it. And so I personally don’t put any sort of emphasis on form. I think, over time, I probably will maybe see like a running coach or something. Right. But yeah, I think as long as you’re out there, right, like in your you’re doing it, then your body will kind of naturally get into the place. Although, of course, there might be some instances where someone might like be prone to injury based off how they’re running. But, like, for anyone listening, definitely see a professional if you’re concerned about an overly concern. What’s been your favorite thing about running so far?

Juan Medina 14:12
I love just seeing the progress and setting a goal hitting the goal and like, slowly, like, getting better. I think that for me is it’s very tangible. In a lot of our jobs, it’s like, Did I make a difference today? Did I move the needle here? It’s like, yeah, I definitely did. So it’s nice. I think that’s been one of my favorite parts.

Chacho Valadez 14:36
Yeah. And the progress and like, like having that consistency over time. You really do see quite a bit of progress even in the beginning as you’re just getting started. And before I go into the next question, we’ll take a quick break to hear from our sponsor, higherrunner.co.

Hey, thanks for listening to this episode. Don’t forget to check out our sponsor, hirerunner.co for all your fractional and temp-to-hire operations talent needs. Now let’s get back into the show.

Welcome back, everyone. So jumping in here a little bit in terms of the way running affects your work, how would you say running affects your work?

Juan Medina 15:17
I can definitely feel a difference on days when I don’t run for whatever reason, once the stress of a job or whatever you’re going through, my normal mode is I tend to just want to work more to like, overcome it. And it’s like, that’s actually, maybe the worst thing, you can do it. So when I cut out, running and other things that I can feel it like, Snowball, because then my eating habits get bad. And it all kind of just snowballs. And so I think for me, yeah, having that as part of the routine is just been super important.

Chacho Valadez 15:59
Yeah, that’s, that’s cool. And I found the same thing as well. At least he especially right now, it’s, it’s a winner in Michigan, and I’ve had some falls this the bike path the past few years, so I’ve decided to just focus on strength training instead, which is why I’m at like the bottom of the leaderboard when it comes to that 1000 mile challenge. But yeah, it’s I’m still, like, I’m itching to get out there. And I know, as soon as I get, like, those first few runs in, I’m gonna be like, I’ve been missing this. So am I right? Would you consider running as part of your role as a founder? Is it part of your job description in a sense?

Juan Medina 16:38
I don’t know running, per se, but certainly, like, self-care. I think it’s so important because it reflects on the culture and the team, right, how you show up. And so like that, that, for me is physical activity is certainly a big piece of that self-care.

Chacho Valadez 17:00
Yeah. What are some of your other favorite forms of self-care besides running?

Juan Medina 17:07
Some of it is like just blocking out time. So like, in the mornings, and in the afternoon, like, hey, know, my daughter’s getting ready for school, I want to just be there for her. And that, that’s important to me, I think, setting up time with friends, to get a coffee or get a beer last night, I went in the Seattle and had a beer with a good friend of mine. And then he, I think also, married to carving out those date nights, or just time for her. I think is important, too. But yeah, easier said than done to do all of those things. But that’s in my kind of toolkit when I’m like, Okay, I need to like change it up.

Chacho Valadez 17:53
Yeah. What’s interesting is, in each of your answers, you talked about basically spending time with people that you love and that’s directly correlated to what you’re building at Lalo, which is cool.

Juan Medina 18:07
Yeah, absolutely. I hadn’t realized that until you said it, but yeah, definitely.

Chacho Valadez 18:14
I just noticed. That’s cool. Yeah, it’s definitely founder market fit a little bit there. So what’s the most difficult part about balancing a running routine or even like, different some of these other self-care practices and being a founder?

Juan Medina 18:30
I think it is those times when you’re trying to work around other people’s schedules to say, like, for a fundraiser, investors, like, hey, I can only meet here and you’re like, Huh, that’s like my running time or personal time. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices. I think the other part of our team is very distributed. And so like, the time zones are all over the place. And so sometimes I’m like, if someone needs something, or we need to work something out, I have to work more on their schedule than my own. And so I think those are some of the challenges I think that they have to work through.

Chacho Valadez 19:13
Hopefully, this podcast interview didn’t come cut into. What do you think people misunderstand the most about running?

Juan Medina 19:25
I used to say this and I was actually talking to my friend last night and he said, it reminded me of like, my view of running before actually, like started going it’s just like, running is not for me, like, I can’t do it. I don’t I can’t see myself doing that and like that’s kind of how I felt for many years or I could play basketball or I could ride my bike but I wasn’t like just to go out there running just like seems so foreign concept to me. And so I think now having like pushed myself to start and see Um, like I think there could be physical limitations and things, but I think most people are fully capable of running and just starting small and like seeing a benefit from it. So yeah, I think that’s probably the biggest misconception that I see.

Chacho Valadez 20:18
Yeah, I think too, it’s important to note that you started off by walking, actually. And we had a guest on Luke Beard who he also started by walking. And then he noticed other people running similar to your story. And he’s like, huh, like, I wonder what this writing thing is all about her. Right? Yeah. And then that’s how he got started a little bit. But I think, yeah, if you’re someone who feels like the running isn’t for them, or that, it’s like, you could never see yourself as a runner. Definitely, like starting by walking is like a great way to get started. And you never have to turn into a runner if you don’t want to, but even like, moving somehow, like, that’s really what’s important.

Juan Medina 21:04
For sure. And you can like, can do it anywhere. You don’t need equipment.

Chacho Valadez 21:11
It’s so interesting, too, because I’m thinking about, like, I listen to some audiobooks and stuff. And they talk about how some of these folks like Steve Jobs would like, bring people along for walks and like, that’s how they made important business decisions. So like, and I think, Chris Listerine. Oh. And he talks about how he actually made, like, came up with the solution to acquire three companies while on his runs. And so it’s like, using that movement to help make decisions and think creatively is really cool.

Juan Medina 21:45
Absolutely. And I, that definitely resonates with me, because I, there are times when I feel like stuck in a rut, and I just keep, like, going over the same decision over and over in my head. And I’m like, No, I’m gonna unplug, like, go for a run. And I do feel like it brings some level of clarity. Yeah.

Chacho Valadez 22:04
One last question here before the quickfire round is, what’s a conversation that you have with yourself when you don’t feel like going on a run?

Juan Medina 22:12
That’s hard? I think—

Chacho Valadez 22:14
Yeah, it’s hard for all of us.

Juan Medina 22:15
Yeah. I think, honestly, I think it’s like, for me, because I’m in the early days of like, Hey, you have to create this habit. And even if you just get out there for like, a mile, like, just do a mile and like, that’s it doesn’t have to, like go overboard. And usually, when I can talk myself into just doing a mile, I end up doing more, because once I’m out there, right, I think that definitely helps.

Chacho Valadez 22:42
Yeah, it’s kind of like that James clear phrase where he talks about how, even if you do like, once you make one small step towards something daily, like you’re casting a vote for that person you’re trying to become. And so like, if you want to be a person that exercises like you can do like one pushup a day, and at least you’re doing something. So that’s similar to like the one mile, it’s like, you’re getting out there, at least for a mile. And like that, that definitely helps. And you end up going further, like you mentioned, which is cool. So yeah, well, we’ll get into the quickfire round here. So questions and answers, I would say 60 seconds or less. Are you ready to get going?

Juan Medina 23:22
Yeah, let’s do it.

Chacho Valadez 23:23
Cool. So, if you had to recommend one book to your younger self, what would that be?

Juan Medina 23:29
Oh, man. I mean, I recently read a book, gosh, I can’t remember the date off the top of my head. But it was a kind of an in-depth view of Y Combinator. And like, how they made decisions. It followed a cohort along the whole year. And for me, reading that book, like in December just gave me a lot of clarity on like, how to start a startup, like, get over that first mile. And then the second and the third. So yeah, I found it hugely valuable.

Chacho Valadez 23:59
Cool. That’s really cool. What was your dream job as a kid?

Juan Medina 24:03
I dream job. I actually wanted to be like a rock star. Oh, really? I play guitar now, but not a rock star. But yeah, I always just loved music.

Chacho Valadez 24:16
Very cool. And what was your first job?

Juan Medina 24:19
My first job was in a bird store. It was interesting. My friends. My parents’ friends owned it. And it was close by so I could walk there. Yeah, I didn’t like it too much. But yeah, it’s my first job.

Chacho Valadez 24:34
Yeah. Do you have a favorite bird or no?

Juan Medina 24:37
I love macaws. They’re so beautiful and colorful, but they kind of squawk so their noise isn’t so nice.

Chacho Valadez 24:48
Yeah, they’re appealing to the eye. Yeah, so fill in the blank here. Running is blank.

Juan Medina 24:55
Running is meditative.

Chacho Valadez 25:01
Love it. Since you wanted to be a rock star, you might like this question. If you had the listen to one song on repeat for an hour-long run, what would it be?

Juan Medina 25:12
Oh, man, I would say, maybe—this just popped into my head—M&M’s “Lose Yourself.”

Chacho Valadez 25:20
Nice. That’s a good one. Yeah, I definitely heard that song probably heard that song, like, a million times. Growing up as a kid, what was your go-to running app?

Juan Medina 25:33
I was using kind of apple Fitness One, but as of this year, now it’s Strava.

Chacho Valadez 25:38
Cool. Yeah. When was the last time you were proud of yourself? Could be professional or personal.

Juan Medina 25:45
Proud of myself. I mean, I think it’s been almost a year since I launched my company. So just looking back and saying like, Hey, I did it. I left Amazon, I made the leap. We’ve built something from it over the last year.

Chacho Valadez 26:03
Cool. And the last one here is what’s your favorite thing about yourself? And why?

Juan Medina 26:08
Oh, man, I mean, I think it’s probably that I’ve lived in a few different places. And like my background of like, coming from Latin America. And coming here, I think has allowed me to relate to a lot of different kinds of people. And so I think that’s the part of me that I like the best.

Chacho Valadez 26:27
Love that. And where can people follow along your journey?

Juan Medina 26:31
Probably Twitter. You can find me at, I actually spelled it out. @atJuanMedina is my handle, so you can find me there.

Chacho Valadez 26:42
Very cool. Well, thanks, Juan. I appreciate your perspective as a new runner and wish you the best. And hopefully I’ll catch up soon on this running goal here for 1000 miles. So we’ll definitely have to have you back to hear more about your experience. So appreciate your time.

Juan Medina 26:58
Thank you. Thanks so much for having me.

Chacho Valadez 27:01
Thanks so much for listening to this episode. I really hope you enjoyed it. If you have a chance, please leave us a review and let us know what you liked about the show, and if you want to follow along with future episodes, go to your favorite podcast platform and hit the subscribe button, or you can also go to runninginpublic.co where we’ll be updating the website regularly. I’ll catch you on the flippety-flip.