Meet Cynthia Garcia

Cynthia Garcia started running when she was 11 and has had an on-again-off-again relationship ever since. A Chicagoland transplant from Utah, Cynthia has run Top of Utah, the Chicago Marathon, and the Boston Marathon. Having experienced the explosions at Boston, Cynthia and her family struggled mentally for sometime, but she feels ready to continue pursuing her running ambitions. She is a full-time student at Northeastern Illinois University, and will run her tenth marathon soon!


1) What first inspired you to want to run a marathon? How capable did you feel you were of running a marathon?

My first marathon I believe I wanted to run because I love running long distances. I wanted to add it to my “living list,” it was a challenge, for the pure joy, and because when I was a little girl watching Joan Benoit win the first women’s marathon gold in 1984 I remember thinking how much fun it looked. That scene has always stayed with me. I don’t believe I was thinking if I was capable because I didn’t know I couldn’t do it. I just set out to do it and made a schedule. My intent was to run just one, but you can’t help whom you fall in love with. I fell in love with the marathon.

2) How did marathon training change your outlook on life?

I believe the biggest change is my nutrition and strength. I am a healthier and stronger woman. I focus on strength training at least twice a week. Marathoning has also helped me in school, organization, and focus. I’m also a much happier and confident woman.

3) What is your go to running song and why?

Oh, wow, that’s a good question. There are so many. I don’t believe I have just one. I usually like songs that help with a cadence. I am very methodical, so I have a playlist that match many race courses. I know I don’t always hear the words when I’m listening, just the beat. I also listen to music to drown out the crowds in order to concentrate on my pace. But “Suspicion Of Love” by Chris Isaak seems to always get my blood pumping and my body revved up to run, “Ali In the Jungle” by The Hours is very motivating, “A Little Less Conversation” by Elvis can ALWAYS get me up a hill, and for sentimental reasons, I love the Olympic them song. I don’t, however, run with music while running with friends, and I’m trying to race without it.

4) Why did you choose to participate in the program again and what are you most looking forward to?

I joined CARA when I lived in Utah. For those that didn’t cross the finish line in Boston’s 2013 race, many of us were waiting to hear from the BAA to see whether we had to qualify again. I talked with Meg (the training coordinator) over the phone and it was because of her compassion, kindness, and assurance that I joined CARA. I continue with CARA because I have met some the best friends I have to date. The CARA Darien running group has become my family. I’m looking forward to reuniting with them. It’s like going to weekly BBQ’s without the hamburgers. However, we always have food. So basically, I’m looking forward to running, friends, and food.

5) What marathon are you running in the fall? What are your expectations for it, and how will training with CARA help you meet those expectations?

I am running the Fox Valley Marathon. I’m hoping to PR. Running with CARA will help me to stay on track. It’s just a lot more fun to be inspired by others, as well as helping those new marathoners. I’m always excited for a new marathoner. If you want help it’s good to be helpful.

6) What most surprised you during this marathon journey?

I am always surprised that whether I have a bad running day, an injury, illness, I continue to run, and that I can still do it. Every time I run a 20 or 22 miler, I look back and say, “Wow, I just ran that.” I’m always surprised at my own success. It’s such a great feeling to know that your hard work has paid off.

7) During the training process there comes a point where every runner hits a wall. How did you keep yourself going? What did you tell yourself?

I tell myself, “You’ve done this before so you know you are capable of doing it. Just ‘get-her done’” Or, I simply start thinking of something else. I often write poems in my head, which always helps me to deter from any pain or struggle I’m enduring and regain focus and concentration. I also believe that a great attitude gets you through anything. I try hard not to lament too long on anything. There are so many highs and lows in this sport, and it’s also what I love about it. The lows help you to work out struggles, to redo strategies. It’s helped me to use those lessons as a mantra for daily life. I also remember my own adage, “Sometimes your best running day is NOT on race day.” It’s okay.

8) How did marathon training enhance the already amazing Chicago summer experience?

Well, because I have met the most amazing people that have become life-long friends. I’ve enjoyed the brilliant camaraderie in races and training. In fact, I love the training more because of the camaraderie. I also have loved how I have grown as a distance runner and my personal accomplishments.

9) What was the hardest thing for you to overcome during training or running the marathon? Time commitment? Doubt?

One of the hardest parts to overcome is realizing that age plays a part in running. Sometimes my body just doesn’t cooperate as easily as it used to. I have to remind myself to stretch more, foam roll more, to give myself comfort, and to remind myself that it’s okay and I’m still healthy enough to run. It’s a very humbling experience. School also plays a significant role in training. Studying for midterms, finals and especially writing papers, can take so much time away from social running gatherings. I miss a lot of pancake breakfasts because I have to study or write a paper. That being said, I never let school get in the way of my weekend runs. I adjust my homework and miles according to what is necessary. In any event, my motivation is always on schedule.

10) If there were someone sitting on the couch right now, thinking about doing what you did, what advice would you give him or her?

Haha. I just advised someone. He said because of work he has hard time getting any more than 13 miles. I told him to join CARA! I believe running with friends is the best way to get through a long run. I love the motivation we can give each other. I would tell a newbie, “First, and foremost, if you want to do it, YOU CAN! There is enough information and help that it is not impossible to run a marathon. Stick to the schedule as best as you can. Run with friends. Run with CARA. Try to NEVER, NEVER forego your long run. The long run is where you not only gain running strength, but you gain running confidence.” Mostly, I would encourage them that they can do it and I’m here to help. CARA is here to help. Also, to embrace your bad days –we’ll help you get through it because you’ll have more great days. Most of all, to have fun and smile! Be careful though; you might fall in love with marathoning.


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