Name: Natina G.
Where I Run: California (by way of Texas)
Who I Run With: I’m connected locally with BGR San Francisco Bay Area; I am connected to a few virtual “running clubs” which are sooo supportive, especially when traveling to running events Black Runners Connection and National Black Marathoners Association!
Favorite Race: People who know me well know this question is like asking a parent to choose between their children (I’m totally my father’s favorite). But, if I must, it’s a tie. Rock ‘N’ Roll Las Vegas was my very first half marathon, and since 2011, I’ve been back every year save one. Running the Las Vegas Strip at night should be on everyone’s bucket list. And, there is a distance for every type of runner! 5K, 10K, Half, Full…you name it! I’m also a Ragnarian. I live for living in a van for 2 days because that’s the only way you’ll be able to do a Ragnar Relay. They are so much fun! I’ve done 4 already, and looking forward to #5 in May! That is another running event for the bucket list. You have just got to do it, at least once. Or twice. Because, challenge medals.
When did you first start running?:
For fun, in 2011. One of my staff members convinced me to do the Wicked 10K in Virginia Beach. It was awesome! Happy people, running? Who knew that was a thing. Plus, they were in costume!!! The race ended at Virginia Beach right in the sand. I thought I “won” the race when I finished because they gave me a medal. I was sooo hyped, but confused because I definitely saw people finish before me. Just a whole mess in my black angel wings. For serious, in 2013. By that time, I had completed a couple of 8K’s, 10K’s, and my very first half marathon in Las Vegas.
Why do you run?:
If I knew the answer to that, I would have more of my life figured out. In the beginning it was for the most innocent and genuine reasons – to have fun. I had no anxiety about it – not a drop.
Around the end of 2013, I was at a bar with friends watching college basketball, you know, an alumni gathering. Two white, female presenting individuals and I were having a conversation and running came up. I agreed with them about a distance running event that we had all done at one point, and they looked like deer in headlights. Their eyes were saying, “wait, you run?” and “wait, you run, like in distance running events?” It took my friend (a black man) confirming that I had taking my body across more finish lines than his athletic build had ever done for them to sorta, maybe believe it was the truth.
That hurt. All because I didn’t “look” like a runner (to them). The only single digit size I’ll probably get to in this here thing we called life is on my ring finger. I oscillate between making my peace with that and sadness. That was the first time I realized there was something very different about someone with my body type running. I felt so much shame about it. I almost quit.
But that is why having a community of support makes the difference. From that, two of my very close running friends and I decided to commit to #14in2014. We set out at the end of 2013 to earn 14 medals from 14 running events. 2014 is in the top 3 of ‘most amazing adulting years’ I’ve had in my life. I met so many people. Traveled the United States. Had so many firsts. I earned 17 medals and completed 18 races.
I would say then, I did it because people believed I could not do it. Which was a terrible reason to start because I almost got lost in that negative place. Once I realized that those people were people I shouldn’t even concern myself with (that took some time), it became my thing. I run because it’s my thing.
Who is/are your running role model(s)?:
I don’t know that I have a running role model. But there are two running stories that are so inspiring to me. They center me back to my why when I doubt myself. First, the story of Antoine Craig. Dude ran an 8K in Richmond, in the same year I set out for greatness, blind. I don’t wonder if I have enough to run when there are people who come with less and make it to the finish line. Then there is Mirna Valerio. If ever I needed to see an example of someone looking like me having the audacity to be exactly who they are, then it’s her. I almost typed ‘having the audacity to be great’ because that’s what we think, right? Someone who does something that it seems they shouldn’t (have the nerve, ability, etc) do, then it’s somehow greater, right? But of it all, it’s the humility she shared in her distinguished journey. She might be the only Cross Country coach that looks like her, and that is okay. That did not stop her from being as accomplished as her peers – hell, probably even more. I want running to always feel okay. Like it’s something I’m supposed to do because I want to. And have that be enough.
Advice for anybody looking to start running: Just do it. I know that seems lame, but you have to get out there. I had so much anxiety about running, even that first race, that I almost did not go. Find one friend, pay for their race registration if you need to, and go. Walk it if you’re not ready to run it. You will quickly figure out a few things: 1. There are runners, joggers, woggers (walk+jog), and walkers – and they all register for the same event at the same time; 2. Everyone is so supportive and encouraging of everyone; and 3. Once you cross the finish line, you will wonder why you were worried in the first place. Oh, and that running playlist. You must get that all the way together. My running playlist is one of the reasons I love to run. Active time with my amazing music library? Yes, please!
Blog: #TheGirlieGurlChronicles It started out as a running thing that’s evolved. My good friend told me that I needed to post the letter I sent to the Competitor Group after I ran my very first half marathon and left Las Vegas sans medal.