By Maria Perez
I was not always a runner. In fact, growing up I struggled with a lack of confidence, and commitment to ever stay in one sport or activity. Name a sport and I’ve probably tried it. When things got tough, I got going! That was until, running happened.
I started running eight years ago. I was unhappy with my weight, unhappy with my loss of energy, loss of motivation and unhappy with how impatient I was becoming, stressing over the small insignificant worries in life. I worked way too much, always on the go. Sleep has always been an issue for me, a joke filled with nightmares, which kept me up at night and caused me to sleep excessively the next day. It was then that I realized the need to slow down and the need for physical health and self-care. I was helping others but neglecting myself. I was unaware then of the benefits I would reap from lacing up my shoes and hitting the pavement!
Before running I joined several gyms in an attempt to fulfill my need but continued to struggle with consistency and motivation. Until one day my coworker, Bonnie, invited me to join her for a four miler. “It will be fun!” she said, “You don’t even have to run.” Along with my registration commitment entered the anxiety, the fear of even walking four miles! So I decided to bring along my brother and one of my best friends because, if I was going down, they were too!
Race day must have been one of the coldest days in San Antonio, not really but we San Antonian’s don’t do well with the cold. The roads were covered in ice and I wanted out. But it was the running ambiance, the encouragement, support from other runners, the high fives, the cheers, along with the laughs and the companionship of my brother and Bestie that warmed up the day and we finished. What adrenaline and energy! I was sold. I wanted more than to just lose weight. I wanted in on the running community. Next race, I was going to run not walk. I wasn’t too sure how, but I was going to be a runner!
Since that year, I have pushed my limits; proven to myself “Si Se Puede” traveling to many states and cities, completing four marathons, several half marathons and other races and distances. But I did not accomplish this alone. Before I became a runner, wearing everything cotton, ha! I went around sharing my experience and goals of one day becoming a runner to anyone who would listen and in hopes of finding help to become a runner. It was then that I was not only reconnected to some of my college buddies, whom are now family, but I was also introduced to the Buttercream Gang Running Group! I was not even aware that running groups existed!
BGRG, along with the amazing support of my kiddos and hubby, inspired and motivated me to push through my first half then on to my first full and they helped make running a part of me! It hasn’t been easy, there have been a few injuries and setbacks, but it’s been a challenge, an amazing journey that has led me to so much more than words can describe! It’s my journey that I have chosen to have total commitment for and control of!
Along with the benefits running provides, follows a few running cons. Not listening to your body and wanting to push through pain, proved to be a big obstacle for me but a lesson well received. In 2014, I chose to run a full marathon with double stress fractures. And although, the race was a memorable experience I gained so much from, my poor choice to run injured led to more than six months of emotional and physical pain. I was done, or so it felt that way.
More priceless than any PR or race that I completed are the runs with my friends, family, especially my son and daughter, as well as those friends who have become familia. One particular race that will forever go down in the memory books is the hot cocoa 10k, my daughter and I ran here in Idaho while she visited from Texas. Texas, you know home of the heat and humidity. It was the year of Snowmagedon and it must have been zero or below, and the snow kept a falling! Many participants chose not to run, and we didn’t understand why. We now know. After a few miles, icicles for eye lashes, and several attempts to drink frozen Gatorade at the aid stations, we thought we were done for! But nope, this momma and her girl kept a running, more like snowshoeing, but we got it done! Mission accomplished!
I am a runner, not an elite runner, not a competitive runner, nor do I seek the spotlight. In fact, I take pride in being a back of the packer runner! As a result of slowing down and my turtle pace, not only have I gained mental health, clarity, and peace within my inner self, but the best part of it all for me is the connection, the amazing friendships and relationships, the laughs, the tears, the frozen Gatorade, frozen eyelashes, and that positive energy that we as runners possess and share.
Being able to take running with you anywhere anytime is also a plus! Anywhere you go you will almost always find an amazing running community! I mean when we moved from Texas to Idaho, which is a whole other story, running in snow wow, I had BAR picked out before I even had a job or home! Priorities! BAR has not only helped push me outside of my comfort zone, helped me make lifelong friendships, but has also made my transition from Texas to Idaho such a sweet experience. Each running group I’ve come across has become my own little running familia.
Today, for me, running not only keeps me connected to meaningful friendships and helps push me out of my comfort zone, but lacing up my shoes and pounding the pavement and trails helps fight away the nightmares, the negative energy, the exhaustion, the grumpy mood, the anxiety and the fear of commitment and challenges. Instead of running away, running helps me feel confident that I have total control of my day and as a result empowering others today is much more rewarding. Running has taught me self efficacy, taught me to slow down, soak in the here and now, think clearly and push through any stress, sadness, chaos and confusion that I may have inherited from a day’s work. It’s my self-medication, highly recommended!