The year was 2015.  It was a typical March day in London

there was a light rainfall but the slowly climbing temperatures carried the promise of spring.  Marina Martinez Sanchez was sitting at her computer when a Facebook ad popped up for a 10k bootcamp run with music and post-workouts beers.  Intrigued, she sent out a quick text to her cycling friends asking if they’d be interested in trading their bikes for a pair of running shoes and trying something new.

Although Marina did not know it at the time, that little ad would completely change her life.

Since becoming a Midnight Runner, Marina has completed multiple marathons, one international swim, ran self-supported all around Iceland, met the love of her life and moved across an ocean.  She’s had more adventures in the last four years than most people have in a lifetime- and she is only getting started.

Competing as a national swimmer back home in Spain, running was never really in the plans for Marina.  It wasn’t until she turned 18 and decided she was tired of the hectic competition schedule and the constant travel to swim meets and practices that she realized she needed a change.  When a friend who was training to become a police officer invited her to go running with him, Marina was a little uncertain and nervous but decided that it was worth a try.

It was a moment in my life when I needed a change, something different, something to break from that pattern that my life was pushing to go

Her first race was 7km, and all she remembers was it was hot.  She was struggling through every scorching kilometre, but when she crossed the finish line and saw her dad waiting for her all of that pain vanished.  In that moment, Marina fell in love with running.

After I left swimming I was trying to discover myself again, and when I found running it was like ‘Oh my God!  I found my thing!

In 2014 Marina made the courageous decision to leave her life as she knew it behind and move to London, England to work as a teacher.

I was always protected in this kind of net by my family so leaving that was really tough but I was like ‘If I don’t do it now, when will I do it?

In an effort to make friends in her new home, Marina started joining different running communities and cycling groups in London.  And although it was Marina who convinced her cycling friends to give this crazy-sounding Midnight Runners thing a try on that fateful day in March, Marina herself did not go out to her first bootcamp run for another 6 months.

I was feeling uncomfortable with myself and that lack of confidence was just not me. So I said to myself ‘You know what? Next year is going to be your year.  The year you’re going to be yourself, look after yourself and enjoy your time.’

So on September 27, 2015, Marina finally attended her first Midnight Runner bootcamp run, and she has not stopped going since.

Infused with a new sense of confidence from her Midnight Runner family, Marina began asking herself why not?  Why not sign up for a marathon, or do another half, or do more cycling? She realized she was capable of doing any number of challenging things. From this new vantage point, she saw that she could not lose.

This is what pushed her to sign up for the Midnight Mountain Marathon and Half Marathon - a brutal race that runs through the Brecon Beacons in Wales, where participants start at 5:30 pm and must finish before the event cutoff at midnight.  To make matters more interesting, Marina signed up by mistake to run the race “Bergan Style” - meaning she had to complete the course while wearing a 25lb backpack. Marina immediately started second-guessing herself and didn’t know if she was capable of finishing the race.  But the feeling was short-lived.

I decided to forget that- if I cannot run I will walk

With that in mantra in mind, Marina bravely decided to complete the race despite feeling wholly unprepared, and to her absolute shock, she won her division.  Of course the organizers of the event were quite impressed, but no one was as as impressed as fellow crew captain and Midnight Runners founder Greg, who had joined her for the race.

This is where Greg and I got our start

Since then Greg has been supporting and encouraging Marina to do any number of amazing challenges and adventures, including starting up her own charitable organization, Project Lucha.

Standing on the shore of Tarifa, Spain, Marina and her best friend Karolina were staring across the ocean at the coast of Africa and thought “Hey- we could swim there”.  The two adventurous women decided at that moment that they were going to complete several international swims, and thus the idea of Project Lucha was born. The goal? To create a community of women who inspire and encourage each other to take on challenges, and to provide a platform for women to share their achievements in sport. In July of 2018 the pair completed their first intercontinental swim between Asia and Europe, with plans to complete 4 more international swims from Europe to Africa, Alaska to Russia, North America to South America and Japan to Russia. Of course, in between swims these ladies don’t laze around- they’ve both completed half marathons, marathons and triathlons, including the ominous Death Valley Marathon… which of course they did in style and won their age category!  The pair have also teamed up with Project Aware, a global movement for ocean protection. To learn more about Project Lucha and to keep up with their next adventures, go to https://www.projectlucha.com/.

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Just when you thought this woman couldn’t get any more adventurous, think again.  Marina decided in June 2018 that she was going to take one week to run 260 km self-supported around Iceland.  That means nowhere to pick up food, switch your shoes or even take a shower. No stranger to running with a backpack, Marina thought it would be no problem- until she packed her bag the night  before the trip and it weighed in at 18kg. Just lifting the bag to get it on her back was hard enough- she had no idea how she was going to run around Iceland with it. In typical Marina style though, she took it in stride. She decided “it will be what it will be”, and boarded the plane the next day with excitement, determination, and a really heavy backpack.

Every morning Marina woke up at 4am, ate breakfast and started running.  The warmer summer temperatures provided an extra challenge (as if she needed it), since the melting ice created deep streams and rivers that she had no choice but to cross.  Despite this, going on foot allowed Marina to explore areas that few people ever get to see.

I saw beautiful places, stunning waterfalls- it was all paths where people don’t go because you can’t use cars

Of course the adventure wasn’t all sunshine and waterfalls- by the fourth day she was tired, She hated her backpack so much she could hardly look at it, and she was hungry.  The homemade breakfast bars that she had carefully wrapped for the journey all went moldy because of the humid weather, and Marina was forced to throw them away. But it was during the low points that she had the opportunity to experience the kindness of the local people.

I was walking by the road and crying, and this lovely woman stopped and asked if needed something.

The woman went out of her way to drive Marina to the nearest grocery store (several miles away) where she was able to pick up more food.

You can find really amazing people everywhere.

In the end the journey was so memorable for her not despite the hardships, but because of them.  

I think for me it was more about getting to know myself and what I was capable of in a way that could be inspiring for other people.

Marina emphasises that life should not become just a laundry list of things to do, but an adventure that is challenging, scary, exciting, inspiring and fun.

I think when you become an adult you forget how fun life can be.  You have to get a job, and a house, and a car, and get married and have kids- why does it have to be list of top priorities like that? Go outdoors, go explore- give yourself more!

Her time in Iceland also made her realize that she is capable of spending time with herself and actually enjoying it.  

If you are not capable of being with yourself and enjoying yourself, you won’t be able to have quality friendships or relationships with other people.

You would think that after such a long and arduous journey you’d be sick of running, but what’s the first thing Marina did the day after returning from her trip?  Why, go for a run of course!

From the outside it seems as though Marina has an endless inner well of energy, motivation and positivity, but she is quick to point to her Midnight Runner family as her source of inspiration.

I would not have done all of these things if it was not for them.  They have been supporting me and challenging me and saying ‘Hey Marina- wake up! You are more than you think you are!’

Marina found a family in her Midnight Runner community that made her feel at home in a big city like London, and again when she moved across an ocean to her new home in Los Angeles, California.  

When you arrive in a city for the first time you want to meet people and feel comfortable, feel like you’re having fun.  Midnight Runners scores all those points- it makes me feel at home, like I have a family.

When you ask her to talk about her Midnight Runner community, Marina’s face lights up with excitement and passion and her eyes well with pride.

Despite being scattered in different cities across the world, Midnight Runners manages to provide a global family and support system to all its members, and for that Marina will always be grateful.

Midnight Runners awakens the soul of all of its members and I think that’s why I’m so passionate about it.  I think we do something awesome, the community brings so many people together. I think the world needs more Midnight Runners and active people.

Not only is she proud of herself for everything she has accomplished, but Marina is perhaps even prouder of what she has seen others accomplish through Midnight Runners.

I’m super proud of all of our people.  People who were struggling with 5ks and now they are doing marathons and becoming amazing athletes.  Midnight Runners has wings that pull you up to the sky and you can reach whatever is up there.

From the outside it may look like we’re a running crew, but every Midnight Runner knows that we do more than just run together- we fly.
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