The past two years have taught us all what is truly important in this life. For me, two of those things are health and community.
Growing up in Santa Barbara as a multi-sport athlete before specializing in competitive distance running, I can’t think of a better way to celebrate both our health and community than participating in the Santa Barbara Half Marathon and the Independent 5K. Taking place on Saturday, November 7, it is the very first distance race to go through beautiful downtown Santa Barbara via State Street, bringing neighbors together to pursue health and a great time.
Each individual’s running journey is different. I found running during my freshman year of high school when I joined the track and field team at Dos Pueblos High School as a way to stay in shape for soccer. The summer before, I was hospitalized for anorexia nervosa. I had been voted “most athletic” by my 8th grade class just a few months prior, yet I had become so weak that I could not medically participate in sports and missed out on so many social events. I felt like an imposter on the soccer field and an outsider at school.
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Then I started running, and I felt at home. It gave me a reason to want to be strong and healthy, alive, and vivacious. It has been through running that I have been able to work on healing myself each and every day from my eating disorder. But it was the community of runners that truly made me fall in love.
The act of doing something physically challenging alongside one another can really bring people together, whether that’s during a casual run or a competitive race. People of all different races, ethnicities, capabilities, sizes, and gender can experience a common bond of moving their body through space. I no longer felt like an outsider at school as I had created incredible relationships with teammates through the miles and miles we traveled together. They didn’t care how slow or fast I ran and didn’t care at all about what I looked like running alongside them.
I find so many people too intimidated by going for a run, signing up for a race, or going to the gym due to preconceived ideas of what they “should look like.” Having run competitively for about a decade and now working as a personal trainer and running coach locally, one of my biggest goals is to help people achieve a balanced approach to their health. I work to pursue less of what health should look like and more about how health should feel. I tell my clients that as long as you are putting your best effort forth in whatever exercise you do and only comparing yourself to the person you were yesterday, then you’re doing a pretty great job.
Whether you are reading this and have never participated in a race before, or you have done hundreds of races and already signed up, I encourage you to participate in the Santa Barbara Half Marathon or Independent 5K. Perhaps you will come out for the amazing tour of Santa Barbara; perhaps it’s to start your health journey; or perhaps it’s to connect with the wonderful running community. Whatever your reason may be, I encourage you to get out of your comfort zone in the pursuit of health and community!