Why I Run: Setting Goals to Build Mental Grit

Beth Gutierrez, founder of Joy Culture Events, logs miles to remind herself of her own strength.

Some people are runners at heart. The rest of us suffer through it for physical fitness, vanity, or FOMO (we can’t be the only one without a marathon medal around our neck!). Our “Why I Run” series is an attempt at changing the conversation round running. The stories behind why some influencers, fitness experts and entrepreneurs hit the pavement may just inspire you to make running a part of your own routine.

EVERUP: Can you remember your first experience with running (whether it was negative or positive)? What was it like?

GUTIERREZ: Most sports I played growing up called for short, fast sprints versus endurance running; any longer-distance running I did was as a form of conditioning or team punishment for doing something wrong. In middle school, I somehow always ended up with the militant PE teacher who’d make us run the mile every week, without fail, so running wasn’t really something I enjoyed.

When did running become something that you incorporated regularly into your routine?

I began running in earnest in early 2012. A group of friends/coworkers would run together in the afternoon and some of us decided to train for a half marathon together.

What is your running routine like now? 

I’m training for a race at the moment, so I’m trying to log 2-3 short runs during the week (ranging from 3-5 miles) and a long run on Saturday; I add one more mile every weekend and will train up to 11 or 12 miles. I only run outdoors and am lucky to live on the coast in North San Diego County, so I have long stretches of Coast Highway 101 where I can run and only have to worry about maneuvering around other runners and cyclists. It’s glorious!

What is the biggest improvement in your life that you attribute to running?

Beyond the obvious health benefits of running, the greatest improvement it’s made to my life is increasing my mental toughness. Especially when I’m on long runs—which, for me, is anything from six miles to a half marathon—I have to be my own best cheerleader, talk myself through any discomfort or dip in confidence or pump myself up if I’m feeling good and can pick up the pace. Mental grit has definitely come in handy personally and professionally. Running has also given me a confidence boost in my everyday life, like, “Hey, you can do this—you ran 10 miles this morning, you’re a badass!”

Do you think everyone can experience this benefit by giving a running a shot?

Yes, definitely. For me, it’s about setting a goal—be it 3 miles or 13.1—and accomplishing it. Anyone can gain mental toughness and confidence by proving to themselves they are capable of something they once thought they weren’t.

Some people claim to just “hate” running, it’s not for them—how do you respond? Do you think some people are just innately runners while others aren’t? Or is it more of a learned enjoyment that develops over time?

I do think some people are innately runners; some people’s bodies are built for endurance sports and some love the act of running itself. I am not one of them. I’ve definitely had to learn to find enjoyment in the feeling of accomplishment I get from running. To those who say they hate it, I would say they maybe haven’t found the form of running and/or training that works best for them.

What is a common misconception about running that you think needs to be addressed?

I think the biggest misconception is that running is only accessible to certain people. I hate hearing someone say, “I could never run a half marathon.” Not right off the bat, you can’t! I had never run more than a few miles at a time in my life, and I trained for my first half marathon from scratch over a period of about three months. Bodies are capable of so much! If you commit to carving out time every week and add on mileage incrementally, anyone can train for a 5K, half marathon or more.

Was there ever a time that running stopped serving you and you removed it from your routine for a period of time? What was the reason and how did you get back into again?

This just happened to me in the last year, actually. I began taking classes at a dance studio last July and dropped running altogether, having found a more diverse, empowering and lower-impact way to get my fitness in. But I decided to run in a local half marathon this March and started running again toward the end of January. Getting back into running has been surprisingly great; the dancing has strengthened key muscles that have helped me ramp up my mileage quickly and run faster than I have in the past. I’ll continue to run after the race because now it’s not my only form of fitness.
What are your tips for those who are just starting to add running to their exercise routine?

Start with short distances, and try not to get frustrated! Know that some days you’ll run a long distance and feel awesome and some days you’ll run a short distance and hate every moment, but it’s the cumulative progress that will keep you going over the long haul.

Any insider tips for runners that you find especially helpful?

Yes! Here are some of my top tips:
  • Put together a badass playlist. I’ve been curating mine on Spotify for years and it gets me through every single run. Put that bad boy on shuffle and it never gets old.
  • Find a running app you like. A friend turned me on to Runkeeper and now I can’t live without it. I love being able to pace myself with the help of the app, having stats to check out afterward and cheering on my friends as they train for events.
  • Use a foam roller. After a long run, I always roll out my quads, hamstrings, thighs and IT bands, and it dramatically reduces day-after soreness and cuts recovery time.
  • Cross train. Incorporating different workouts into my non-run days has been a game changer for my training.
  • Smile! Maybe it’s just the culture in my community, but I smile at pretty much everyone I pass by. When they smile back (I’ve even been given high fives!) it gives me a little boost and keeps me going.

There is a huge race culture, and it’s easy to experience FOMO when seeing all the pictures on social media of people carb loading and holding medals. Do you think it’s worthwhile for everyone to train for a race at some point? On the flipside, are there reasons not to or types of people who may not enjoy it?

I think a race is something to experience in your life, whether it’s a 5K, 10K, Tough Mudder or half or full marathon. There’s something to be said about running among thousands of enthusiasts with people cheering you along the way, and the feeling of crossing the finish line after you’ve trained for something is pretty incredible (not to mention the well-deserved victory meal afterward). The only downside is that races can be very costly, so that’s a factor to take into consideration.

Beth Gutierrez is the owner of Joy Culture Events, which provides event consulting, planning and management services for companies and individuals. With a background in marketing, Gutierrez knows exceptional client service, a positive attitude and great mood lighting can go a long way. You can catch her in Encinitas, CA enjoying the outdoors, tending to her honeybees and many houseplants, and attempting to play the ukulele. 

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