Q + A with Nadia Ruiz

Nadia runs amongst a backdrop of sky and mountains.

Nadia Ruiz is a teacher, a coach and an athlete. She’s completed over 140 marathons and 16 Ironman races. She didn’t grow up playing sports, but discovered her natural endurance after enrolling in boxing classes.

We sat down with Nadia to discuss how running has shaped her identity, helping her to grow and inspire others.

FF: How did you get started with running?

A woman runs in the On Tights Long.

NR: Once I started middle school, I went through an awkward stage and I was bullied really badly. My mom enrolled me in boxing lessons so I could protect myself. The coach would have me run around the block for my warm up. I just kept running and running and running. That was when I discovered I had endurance. With boxing, I learned to be dedicated to a sport through the discipline of long practices.

I got inspired to start running because I saw the Ironman World Championship on TV. The stories of people doing an Ironman, chasing their goal and healing through sport was inspiring. I wanted to do one, but after I researched everything I realized I had to be 18 and buy an expensive bike. I decided to jump into running because it was the cheapest sport at the time.

I signed up for my first marathon the first year I started running. I was 14 at the time. My dad and I did our first marathon hand in hand without any training, wearing cotton, without the right shoes. It was a huge learning experience. I felt extreme pain in my legs. I sat on the curb at mile 12 and I cried. I was overwhelmed. My dad sat down and said “If you believe in yourself, you can do this. I'm here for you.” We wobbled to the finish line hand in hand and I had tears of joy and tears of pain. Everything changed when I crossed that finish line - I fell in love with running.

FF: What does it mean to you to be "a runner"?

NR: It has grown into a huge part of my identity to the point where it has almost overcome my identity. I've learned to accept, understand and continuously learn what it means to be a runner and how that definition changes for everyone. When I first started running, I loved the way it made me feel - the sense of joy and empowerment.

If your body can move, you're a runner. I know a lot of us get caught up in pace and finish times, however it’s important to define what running means to you within your own goal. If your body can move, you're a runner. No matter what pace and what distance. That's the sense of empowerment running can give you. Whatever age, background or level, we were designed to move. As long as we keep moving we can help ourselves find that sense of empowerment and find that sense of release from life.

FF: Has running influenced your lifestyle in any way, and if so, how?

Nadia smiles into the camera.

NR: First, it created a sense of empowerment. It also created a sense of pure joy. My students would ask me how I was so happy all the time, and I would share with them my weekend adventures of going to run on the beach at sunrise and traveling to different states and countries for my marathons. Running gives me a sense of joy and I want others to have the opportunity to explore that sense of joy. Finding something that makes you happy, that's healthy, can help you be a better person.

Running influenced everything for me. It changed my career - I was able to explore public speaking, coaching and event planning. My goal in life was and is that I’d like to keep running or moving until my last breath. I understand that as I get older I am slowing down and evolving into the different phases of my life, however I believe embracing it has helped me be who I am.

I’ve always used running as a celebration of life. It's like a little vessel to help me find new places to visit, try new things, and meet new people to create some of the most meaningful relationships of my life. That's how it's truly impacted my lifestyle. It's that little vessel that continues to give me so much.

FF: What advice would you give to people just starting their running journey?

NR: Think of the big goal that you have and write down why it's important. The ‘why’ will get you through the hard days of getting to that big goal. If we don't have a strong internal reason, that big goal won't be reached. Goals are meant to be challenging to reach, therefore we need to identify our powerful 'why' to get us there.

Big goals can be scary, so break them up into little pieces and do a little bit each day. Every day, celebrate the little accomplishments. Sometimes people are intimidated to start because they're starting at a different place than others and we become our harshest critic.

Remind yourself that we weren't born knowing how to walk. It took many tries to learn. And even if we fail, get back up and try again. In order to teach our bodies and minds to do something we have never done before, we’re going to have to learn to try and always keep trying until we do.

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