I started running in September 2005 right after I got my university degree and moved to France. I had applied to a cultural exchange program through the French Embassy and I was one of the ten salvadoreans selected to travel to France and work as a language assistant. I was sent to Lannion, a small town in Bretagne.
It's an amazing program and I had the time of my life! It was the first time I moved away from home and I only had some basic french knowledge but at the end managed to make myself enjoy this extraordinary experience. I worked with assistants from Wales, Scotland, Germany and the USA, we were assigned classes and worked around our class schedules.
Lannion ocean view and the Lannion Crew.
Since I had some free time in my hands I decided to start running on a trail by a river my German friend had discovered. I tried it several times but I couldn’t keep a steady pace, I didn’t know anything about distances, I just wanted to run as a way to keep off the weight from eating all that delicious french bread and cheese (as well as the crepes, wine, etc)
I wasn’t very consistent in my running, the weather was a major set back as I am an all-tropical girl who can’t stand cold weather very well. But what I got from running in Lannion is that I started enjoying introducing physical activity in my life.
I was NEVER (and believe me I cannot stress this word enough) EVER the sporty type while growing up. I hated - H-A-T-E-D!- Physical Education class in high school. I hated it so much (kids don’t do this at home) I got a letter from a doctor stating I was allergic to the sun so I that I could abstain from doing any sports at school…yeap that is how much I hated sports.
So needless to say I had no method, no proper gear and basically no clue of how to start and keep running.
I ran on and off while still in France until my time with the program was over. I was in France for a little less than a year and I hold this time so dear to my heart because I see it as the starting point of a process where I began to really know and embrace who I was and what I wanted in life.
The silence and the me-time I enjoyed while running helped me clear my head and also helped me set goals. While running on the river trail I would say – ok, next time I’ll make it to the bridge.- this made me feel like I achieved something every time I ran! It gave me a goal that I could actually touch, feel, see & step on.
I left France and headed to Spain for my masters degree only this time I wouldn’t be by myself. I met Heinz (he is half German / half Salvadorean hence the name) right before I left for France (more on our story later). We dated while I was away and he was still in El Salvador. When my time in France was up we decided to move to Spain together and continue with our education there. We got married in 2007.
This is the year Heinz & I started dating.
We moved to Madrid with dreams as big as our hearts could hold but it wasn’t long before I started feeling overwhelmed with the new city, our financial instability and being away from my family and having no friends started to take a toll on me.
I spent maybe two years adjusting and settling into my new life. I finished my studies and was lucky enough to get a job in an amazing art gallery. Heinz still had two more years to go so I decided I needed to embrace everything I was going through and make the best out of it.
One of my best friends in El Salvador told me she had started running and that she was even training for a 10K race. She is my –what do you think of this- friend so when she told me she was running and that she had a training plan I was hooked. She sent me her links, running plans and opinions (she has an opinion on everything and that is what I LOVE most about her!) I went to a sports store, bought running shoes and looked on line for the nearest routes. To my surprise I lived two blocks away from a running track!
I went, ran and an obsession was born.
Running made me feel better, positive and strong. I felt like I did in Lannion, like I could set concrete goals and achieve them on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. I felt alive.
I ran/walked/ran three days a week. My goal was to run thirty minutes straight and I was going to stick with it until I did. Even though my running went slow my attitude and my life got better by the minute.
While living in Madrid I never got to run the thirty minutes straight and at the end of 2009 we moved back to El Salvador as Heinz got a job offer here. It had been my dream! to come back to my friends and family but the truth was that the country I left wasn’t the country I would find.
It’s no secret that delinquency and violence has taken over many parts of my country. We’ve never been a peaceful territory but for the past years the situation has gotten worse.
To keep running I worked out routes, days and hours so I would feel safe when running outside but it is still a challenge.
I also got to know more runners who for me are a community of brave men and women. The easy thing to do would be to lock yourself up in the safety of your house, your car or a mall. But runners don’t settle, we just don’t settle. We are always looking for a new PR, a new race, a new challenge and this is what I see in salvadorean runners every time they go for a run they defy the system, they reclaim our territory to run and live in peace.
In February 2010 I did my first 10K.
Even though I will be sharing my training progress it needs to be said that I am no expert when it comes to running. There will be no advice here only my experience, my personal journey of how I don’t run to race or win ....but of how I run to challenge myself .
I run as a way to be thankful- that I breathe, move, see, hear, think & feel – I make myself run to live the best way possible: moving forward.