To be completely transparent, working out was never something I loved or wanted to do. I was never the girl that enjoyed exercising in my spare time because for one, I’ve always been petite so I didn’t think I had to and two, I wasn’t exactly thrilled about the pain I felt after each session. Because let’s face it, limping around on MTA to head to work is not fun. Honestly, my fitness journey did not really start until recently.
Back in 2013, I started working out with a dynamic trainer friend of mine, Dolo’s Fitness, to get over a breakup and be my best self for an upcoming girl’s trip to Negril, Jamaica. I had no idea where to begin so he worked out with me at my home and early mornings at the park just a few blocks away from my place. I saw results but keeping Popeye’s chicken in my diet had a lot to do with me not getting every result I really wanted. However, the biggest thing I learned during the experience was the level of mental strength that exercise requires. It’s that feeling when you feel you cannot physically do one more sit-up yet you find the power to push yourself further. And that newfound mental toughness is a tool I apply to everything, including long-distance running.
Fast forward to 2017 and a few of my friends and co-workers began training for the NYC Marathon. Preparing for the 26.2-mile run entailed a group of men and women running almost every day after work, on the weekends and even doing a few half marathons. Prior to this, the thought of running scared me for no other reason than I did not know how to do it. I was not athletic and was completely the girl who ran out of breath running down the block for a bus. Still, I was happy to support my friends by showing up to their races and cheering them on at the finish line.
What I did not expect was how inspired I would be watching them compete. So many different people made it to the finish line. I would see young people, old people, tall, short, amateurs, veterans, all different races, all different body sizes and it completely challenged my idea of what I thought a runner looked like or could be. This, coupled with my friends encouraging me that I could do it too, was what made me sign up to run the Brooklyn Half Marathon in 2018. Running 13.1 miles from Crown Heights to Coney Island was probably one of the hardest things I have ever done. But with a good playlist, I stayed focused and maintained a steady pace—squishy socks and all. And more importantly, I finished. I completed the journey I started and I could not be more proud to say I earned that medal. I wanted to stop many times and sometimes I did to walk or give my friends hugs who were there to cheer me on, but I did not quit.
What began as just training for my first race organically birthed an all-female run club, The Brownies Run Club, under the umbrella of our company The Brownie Agency, which I co-founded with Brianna Agyemang. Natalia Espaillat serves as our third team leader, who keeps us motivated and helps set the course for each run. And in turn, we encourage others to run with us. Something I used to dread and thought I could not do has now blossomed into something I look forward to every week. The sisterhood we formed through running not only motivates me to stay the course, but it also gives me an excitement to work out that I never knew I could possess about sweating profusely and being short of breath. I actually use my gym membership more than three times a month and even wake up early to go on solo runs. Fitness has become such a fun and invigorating part of my everyday lifestyle.
If you would have told me five years ago that I’d be a runner, I would have never believed you. To look at where I started and to see where I am now really is a blessing. The Brownies Run Club has about 20 to 25 girls that run with us every week. Running with a group of people really holds you accountable, and for that, I will always be grateful to my friends for inspiring and encouraging me to start this fitness journey.
After the half marathon, my friends who are seasoned marathoners pushed me to continue racing, and I realized that your fitness journey doesn’t end when you reach a goal. Much like in life, you’ve got to keep going in order to maintain and you’ll go further than you ever thought you could.