“The buzz of running is that it makes you feel like you can do anything”
Cristina Mitre, a popular journalist in Spain, is not only a voice of authority when it comes to running, but also a great example to follow. She not only writes about running, but is also a passionate runner herself who has gone through all the trials, tribulations and unparalleled joy that any serious runner goes through. Cristina founded the community Women who run and she writes for her popular blog The Beauty Mail. She has also published several successful books on her professional and personal passions. Cristina has recently become one of the figureheads for the campaign: #MujerEsRunning (women are running). Cristina and her fellow female runners aim to promote women’s running and encourage more women to take part in races.
When, why and how did you start running?
“I started running in 2009, I hated it at first! It was at the end of summer, I had put on some weight and I felt heavy, I went to the local leisure center and signed up for some sports classes. The people I met there really encouraged me, they said that they went through the same initial discomfort but I would end up liking exercising in the end. They were right, in a few months I started to relish my classes and training sessions, from that I created the hashtag: #mujeresquecorren (women who run). This turned into a full on movement of women’s running 2.0. I wrote my book… it is now in its 7th edition and has been translated into Chinese and Portuguese. I released a follow up book a while after… big things start with small steps”.
What does running mean to you?
“Running can change your life. This is what happened to me, and to thousands of other people. Running releases endorphins, this buzz gives you the feeling that anything is possible. When you are running, you do not hear angelic choirs singing! But, when you get home, incredibly tired; you think about what you just did, and how amazing it was. I always say that no woman should miss the feeling of crossing a race finishing line”.
You mentioned the hashtag #mujeresquecorren. Do you think women’s running would be the same without social media?
“No. I was working at the magazine ELLE, I already knew the power of reaching a wide audience; social media really helped me reach a massive audience. If it wasn’t for twitter and blogs, we never would have been able to mobilize such a large amount of women. My message reached those women and I was able to speak in real language and talk about real emotions”.
Running is going through a golden age. Do you think it is just a trend or a real social change?
“I wish all trends were so healthy! Running has taken a long time to become popular in Spain. I think that it is here to stay. You don’t need a lot of equipment, training or experience to start. Just putting on your sneakers and hitting the streets will give you a lot. However, you should go to see your doctor first to make sure that running is the right sport for you”.
You are the director of Women’s Health Spain and Portugal. Up to what point do you think that mass media is responsible for promoting a healthy lifestyle?
“At Women’s Health, this is our mission, I always say that we do not have followers, but a community. We want to sell magazines but I also want to communicate my own experiences as a runner and as a woman. We want to help women engage in a healthier lifestyle that works for them. We also want fitness to not be about physical appearance. For that reason, we have stopped using titles such as “Beach Body”, or “Lose 2 Dress Sizes in Two Weeks”. The mission is to lead a healthy lifestyle and enjoy it”.
Work, exercise, family… How do we balance all of that?
“I am not going to lie; it’s difficult. You have to make sacrifices to go out running and train for a big goal like a marathon. It’s difficult, but not impossible: exercising for 45 minutes, 3 days a week is enough. Also, you do not have to train for a marathon to stay fit. A lot of the time we compare ourselves to other people that are fitter than us and we end up feeling frustrated. You have to make it work for you: what are your physical abilities, how much time do you have? And, starting small changes in our daily lives such as climbing the stairs, getting up from your office desk to do some stretches every now and then. In the introduction to my latest book: “correr no es una obligación, sino un regalo” (running is a gift, not an obligation) Katherine Switzer says the same thing; you have to do exercise it because you enjoy it, your weight or PB do not define who you are”.
Recently you gave a talk in Valencia “Don’t rush running”. What’s the idea behind this concept?
“Running is living, you should not be ‘living running’. I wanted to show that running can help you slow down your daily life and not feel like you have to run around all the time. Running gives you the space you need to enjoy the present. Having a goal such as ‘run 5 km’ can be good and bad, but really you should just enjoy the moment. Running is a great way to practice mindfulness. This will have an impact on your daily life. Physically running without rushing can help you not to run around in your daily life and appreciate your ‘daily moments’ in a mindful way”.
After running the Valencia Half Marathon (2014) and the 10K (2015) what are your thoughts on Valencia, La ciudad del Running?
“If you don’t run in Valencia, you are missing out!! If there is one city that breathes running, it’s Valencia. The city center river park and its dedicated 5KM running track are awesome, and the fact that it hardly ever rains or is chilly makes for great running… also, Valencia´s race events are very well organized. I love it that 10K runners get to run at the same time as the full marathon runners and finish on the same blue finishing carpet. I haven’t done the full marathon yet, but it’s on my list and it will be the next race that I run in Spain”.
To wrap things up, what is the biggest piece of advice that you would give to runners?
“Take regular doses! Running teaches you so many lessons that you can apply to your daily life; for me it taught me how to think positively, and to be at ease in uncomfortable situations, to value my body; running showed me what my body is capable of… for women this is incredibly liberating. Running will strengthen your muscles and make your joints stronger, but, above all, it will strengthen your sense of self-worth and wellbeing”.