Rekindling My Love for Running

For the past 10 years running has been my drug of choice. I fell in love with running in the first place because of the sense of freedom it gave was my escape. No feeling in the world could compare to that "runner's high" that overcame me every time I went for a run... The feeling was euphoric and stimulating. Whenever I'm out there hitting the roads and trails, it's never about competing against anyone; I'm constantly competing against myself.

Running has been like my second job, my escape, my passion. Over the past two years, I have run 18 Ultra Marathons. For anyone who is not familiar with an ultra, it's any race that is longer than the 26.2 mile marathon. During my ultra experiences, I have ran through knee-deep snow, on icy trails, through mud, difficult terrains,  and so many other conditions. I've fallen many times... been bloody, my feet swollen with blisters, my hands too numb to feel anything. I've even suffered from Hyponatremia resulting in my digestive system shutting down and the inability to urinate during races. I ran in frigid temperatures resulting in Hypothermia. You can say I've seen it all. 

Yes, I have a "Type A" personality... Driven, competitive (not necessarily with others, but with myself), stubborn, slightly obsessive (about one thing or another), self-motivated, and over-achieving (to some degree). But after 98 races, including 18 Ultra marathons (50K-100 miles), 9 marathons, and 24 half marathons, all of a sudden I developed "post marathon depression." It came about a month after successfully completing my last Ultramarathon, the Javelina Jundred 100K on October 31, 2014. I no longer had the desire to run long distance or run any races at all. I was unable to find satisfaction out of something that had been effortless for so long. My mind was exhausted and my body was beat down. A classic case of burn-out. I knew I needed an extended break from running.

During my break from running - last November through May-  I learned how to enjoy life without running. I reconnected with non runner friends and my family, found different hobbies, and rekindled old passions... But most importantly, I learned about myself and how I needed to balance life and running.

I finally got my mojo back and that itch to run returned for me. I didn't want to go back to being that obsessive, over-achieving runner, but I wanted to find enjoyment in the sport that motivated me and changed my life. I thought a good jump start would be to do group runs again. I just wanted a group that was local, fun, light-hearted, and welcomed all paces. One day, I came across a local running group called Harlem Run via Instagram and Facebook. During my first run with them, I had such a great time and I considered them family almost instantly.

What's unique about Harlem Run is that at the beginning of every group run, every single runner introduces themselves to the group or to whoever's standing next to them and shares an interesting fact about themselves. I was formerly introduced to the group by Alison and Kai as "ultrarunningchick81" (my Instagram name). Everyone welcomed me wholeheartedly and genuinely wanted to get to know me and learn about my running background. Ever since my first day with the crew, I was hooked and I never left. 

There are those on the team who say that I inspire them to go the distance, but what they don't know is that they inspire me to lace up my sneakers and hit the pavement. They motivated me to start racing again... something I wasn't sure if I would ever get back into. Their motivation has even pushed me to qualify for the 2016 NYC Marathon! Every Monday night, I'm out there running with Harlem Run and I feel alive. I have a sense of purpose again. I have met some of my closest friends through Harlem Run... We share stories, tons of laughs, we run together, we race together.

When acquaintances become friends and friends become family...that's Harlem Run! I finally found my home!


Amir Figueroa5 Comments