Many of you may have seen the photo I posted of my medal after finishing my first half marathon last Sunday. As it it usual for me, sometimes I process experiences for a few days until I realize the extend to what has happened. So this will be a different story, one about changing for good!
I started taking care of my health about four years ago, I changed my eating habits, making a great effort to prepare proper meals and eat fresh food instead of processed food, that made a lot of difference on my weight and also the constant allergies I had.
But I think one of my biggest achievements, was to start training and working out on a regular basis. It was super hard at the beginning, I couldn’t even hold a plunk and let’s not even think about push-ups.
When I was in school all my marks were 19/20 except the ones for sports which were all the way down to 15/20 permanently. I had to listen to my frustrated trainers because I was unable to play volleyball or basketball, gymnastics were not precisely my forte either, and running was unbearable and exhausting, and I am talking about running at the school’s sports field which was rather small.
So when I started doing sports, I went mostly for Hiit, working out with my bodyweight, pilates, yoga or biking. Running was a distant illusion, sometimes managed to run on the treadmill for about 15 mins or so. At the end of 2014 somehow I started to put a bit more effort in running, mostly through the city (Cusco) for half an hour, which might not seem to be much, but considering the altitude (3400 meters) and that the city is hilly, especially the way home, it was a good work out.
I remember clearly the 31st of December 2014, my friend and I were enjoying of a nice tour from London to Windsor and Stonehenge, at lunchtime we met a nice couple from Mexico, they approached us because they heard us speaking Spanish, so we had a nice chat over lunch. The lady’s name was Gabriela (just like me!) and she was coming from Berlin where she had participated at a race, can’t remember if it was a half marathon or a marathon. Anyway, she said she used to travel to different cities to participate in running events, and sometimes her husband joined her.
I was so surprised about that, so I asked if she had always been a runner, because I thought that runners were runners since they were children, I had the idea that a runner was born to do so! What she said changed my life… She told me she wasn’t a runner all her life, in fact she had started to run a few years before, after her husband made a bet on that she would never become a runner. Basically she started running just to prove her husband wrong, then she loved it and made running an important part of her life.
I was left thinking about that, and it clearly made a huge impression on me, for what I thought until then was completely different. I started to run more often and for longer time since then. London was the first city to see me running early morning despite the freezing winter cold, then on the same trip Istanbul was another incredible scenery for the morning runs.
I ran everywhere I went, at first 45 minutes, then almost an hour, it was not much for the sake of burning calories or increasing the distance or improving the pace, I truly enjoyed to explore new cities by running early in the morning when everything is calmer and there are not so many people on the streets, the views of unknown cities waiting to be discovered, it was incredible!
A memorable place were I ran was of course one of my favorites in the world: Athens! I ran to the Acropolis, I ran to the Panathenaic Stadium, passing by Syntagma square, watching the city as the sun rose over the mountains and the sounds of people and cars was louder. I ran with my friends by the beach were I also tripped and fell down, but my happiness and excitement to be there was stronger than the pain, so I kept running with the bleeding knee for a few more kilometers until we got a cab with a driver who was high, and charged us half the rate 🙂
I ran my first race in Berkhamsted (UK) the town where I studied (at Ashridge) it was only 8k but the ups and downs, the cold of the winter and the warmth of the people cheering us was enough to make it to the finish line.
I ran several times in Lisbon and Porto (Portugal), Wolfach and Stuttgart (Germany), Mechelen (Belgium), Sofia (Bulgaria), Ashridge state and even in Delhi (India) at 32 degrees of temperature. So, naturally a 10k was the next big milestone, luckily enough my Russian friends made it possible to run the first 10K race in Moscow, it was an incredible experience, which I describe in this post!. After that, I used to do more indoor running and swimming because I needed to manage better my time while working on my Master Thesis.
Last year I had the chance to run back in Cusco, though the altitude did make a difference now that I don’t live there permanently, then I ran in Santiago (Chile), back in Ashridge (UK), Geneva (Switzerland), Frankfurt (Germany) again in Lisbon when I attended the Web Summit, and to round it up nicely, another 10K race in Madrid! Of course also Lima where I was based for most part of the year.
I was supposed to run 25k in Berlin in may 2017, but then I got an invite to a birthday celebration which I gladly accepted and Berlin was left aside. I guess the idea of having a bigger challenge was hanging in my head since then, hidden somewhere just waiting for another opportunity.
So when I saw the announcement for a 21k race in Lima I didn’t really think about it, I registered immediately and started to train, though I have to admit I did not train as much as I would have wanted to, for some reason I was afraid of the distance, completing 10K was not the easiest but neither the most difficult thing, but 21k was a bit intimidating.
The day before the race I could only think about that, panicking a little and asking my self why? why would I do this? the only response was: “because you registered, and it has already started! so now you have to finish it!” I prepared my outfit for the race the night before and the next morning I left home with the sole purpose to reach the finish line!
It is incredible how some things just appear in front of you to help you overcome your fears. The previous days I had watched a film about a man who had paraplegia but never the less managed to finish and ironman, and then several other competences before his body could not move anymore. Then a couple days before, I saw one of my dearest friends (Ninke Meinen) finish also an Ironman in Copenhagen which got her an especial invite to the World Championship Ironman in Hawaii!
I saw also another friend running more half marathons in the space of two months that one could imagine and now he’s training for a marathon! Another friend who has also done several triathlons and is always doing it for a good cause. And just the night before I saw one of my biggest inspirations on Instagram, she’s an Argentine lady who lives in NYC and runs a lot! she is coach of other people and has fun stories, one of her posts said: “Showing up is half the victory”.
Many times during the race I thought about how tired I was, how long it all seemed, yet I celebrated each kilometer I left behind, was it painful? yes a little, was I exhausted? yes, did I want to drop out? not even for a minute, was it a mental or physical challenge? yes both equally! Will I do it again? most probably yes!
It might not be such a big deal for many of you reading it, but for me it was. I remembered Gabi (from Mexico) saying she had decided to become a runner, so she did, I kept that memory very present all this time. Every time I saw my friends achieving their goals I admired them for being so determined, disciplined and strong, and now I feel the same for me!
I am by nature driven and love to overcome challenges, many times I don’t think too much about them until I have achieved the goal, then and only then I see the great effort I’ve put on it, the difference now is that I am also very conscious and aware in the process so that I can better identify my feelings and thoughts, so it is much more rewarding and the lessons much richer.
However, even though some goals can be achieved individually, there is always people who play an important role in the process, without whom it would have been more difficult. I am speaking of all those beautiful souls cheering runners up during the race, a big thank you to everyone who were there during the 8k, 10k and now the 21k! every Go! go! go! every ‘Come on! you ‘re almost there, only 4k left!’ means the world to me and can make an enormous difference, it makes me feel a shot of energy, for which I am deeply grateful!
So yes! I like to set big challenges for myself from time to time, I like to feel that I can always be better at something, that I can learn more and more every time, and by doing it, by being aware in every part of the process I enjoy more reaching the goal. Now I know that if you really want to, you can become a runner, if you invest time and effort you can achieve a half marathon and even a marathon, if you have the discipline to train and the mental strength to overcome your mind’s fears you can reach the finish line. In the same way if you can do this you can also do and become many more things in live!
“I wasn’t a runner, but I have now become one”
Cheers to all my friends who run, do triathlons, ironman, and who are not afraid of change, or pushing their own limits. Thanks for inspiring me, thanks for sending encouraging messages, and tips for recovery (T without you I would not have been able to walk normally within 48 hours after the race).
Another challenge is coming in the next days, and I hope I can manage to write about it before, if not then after. In the meantime…Hasta pronto! See you soon! Auf Wiedersehen! A presto! Au revoir! Adeus!