Near the beginning of my Sunday morning run on January 20, 2013, I met a 42-year-old woman. Over the course of our slow-paced, conversation-filled 11 miles, we came to know each other. Guadalupe’s English is on a par with my Spanish, but we understood each other just fine.

In addition to running, it turns out we have much in common. We live in the same neighborhood, love dogs, are small businesswomen and both of us recently attended an exhilarating citizenship ceremony. I was a spectator watching my Swiss friend become an American; she was a participant from the largest country represented at the courthouse that day: Mexico.

I asked Guadalupe how long she’s been running. “Since I was 19,” she said. That’s when she and her siblings came from Oaxaca to California “sin papeles.” They paid someone to take them at night to a dark and lonely place near Tijuana. They ran in the hills for hours to get to the southernmost part of San Diego County before dawn.

Along the way, when they heard helicopters, they’d quickly flatten on the ground. After the threat had passed, they would rise up and resume their running climb. No food. No water. No light except the shining hope illuminating their journey.

I wondered if she and her siblings were frightened to be in the unknown, but she said there were some 30 people, from children to middle-aged adults. “How courageous,” I thought, to leave familiar territory and literally run to what you trust will be a better place where you can create a better life.

Bursting with energy and drive, Guadalupe has done just that. She and her husband own a home in Oceanside. He has a steady job in landscape maintenance. Beginning as a babysitter, she now runs a thriving housecleaning business and has hired an assistant to help her spic-n-span three houses a day. Her son works as an apartment manager to fund his matriculation at UCSD, where he plans to engineer a bright future for himself.

What a story to hear on the day before the second inauguration of our 44th President, Barack Obama. I myself am a second-generation American and the first in my family to graduate from college.

Guadalupe and I parted, making plans to run together again. Twenty-four hours later, President Obama said that “American’s possibilities are limitless” if we work together.

And, I add to myself, if we run with instead of away from one another.