If you ask a runner to tell you what running is like for them, whether they are a beginner or a seasoned marathoner, one common answer they will all tell you is this: Running is hard. It hurts, it’s honest, and it can sometimes be very unforgiving. It requires dedication, mental tenacity, and the ability to force yourself out the door and put in the miles even when you don’t feel like going. To get yourself to a place where you can genuinely say you enjoy the sport takes time, consistency, and commitment.
The trick to truly loving running is finding a source of motivation and something that helps you enjoy the sport, even when your legs are lead, your lungs feel as though they can’t possibly take in any more oxygen, and you still have a long way to go before the finish line. For Olatz, who went from sporadic jogger to half marathon finisher in less than a year, the secret ingredient was a group that motivated her, pushed her, and made running fun. That group was Midnight Runners.
Now one of the high-energy crew captains for Midnight Runners Barcelona, it’s hard to imagine that running and fitness haven’t always been a large part of Olatz’ life. Though she began going on occasional runs while she was in University, it was not something she particularly enjoyed or looked forward to doing.
“I didn’t use to do proper or regular trainings, so I remember that even if I loved the after run satisfaction, I would often be struggling.”
When she moved to Barcelona from her hometown of Zarautz, she decided to make fitness more of a priority and joined a bootcamp group. Working out with a group helped to push her out of her comfort zone and become stronger and fitter, and she loved the supportive group atmosphere. She began running a bit more frequently on her own, signed up for some obstacle races, and began taking Taekwondo.
Olatz first heard of Midnight Runners when they did a pop-up event in Barcelona in 2016. She was one of the nearly 3000 people who turned up for the event.
“It was absolutely epic and I enjoyed running as I never did before. I had never run with such loud, motivating music, surrounded by so many runners and all the energy that the captains were giving us.”
The crew that came down to put on that pop-up made a lasting impression in Olatz’ mind. So much so, that two years later, when a friend from London Midnight Runners told her that there was going to be another event in Barcelona, she knew she had to participate. What Olatz didn’t realize was that this was no ordinary MR event, but the official launch of the Barcelona Chapter of Midnight Runners. With another obstacle course race coming up the next weekend, she decided to skip her Monday evening Taekwondo class and do the weekly MR bootcamp instead. It was that night that she met Marta, who has also now become a captain, and decided that she wanted to continue to be a part of Midnight Runners.
“I totally fell in love with the Monday sessions and its vibes. Marta and I had this friendly non-spoken rivalry to see who would go faster and complete all the exercises. Thanks to that, I would always give my most on Mondays (so would Marta) and at some point I was asked to be a captain. After that first Monday that I decided to join, Mondays have always been reserved for MR for me.”
That was the magic button for Olatz: An energetic group of people who made running fun and approachable, and who she knew would push her out of her comfort zone every single week. Since starting with Midnight Runners in March of 2018, Olatz has gone from an occasional runner to a Ragnar Relay participant and half marathon finisher, with the eventual goal of doing a full marathon. This is quite the change for someone who didn’t even really like running all that much less than a year before!
“I’m definitely running much more now and setting (very humble) objectives for myself. I have run races that I would have never considered doing before, like the half marathon of Barcelona this past February. As I struggle with long distances, I decided to go for the half first, and maybe to do a marathon later on. But this March I went to cheer on our team through the Barcelona Marathon and ended up running 30k of the marathon. I really enjoyed it and I think that it gave me motivation to know that I was supporting my friends.”
While she still gets nervous before races, she now enjoys the challenge, looks forward to running hard, as well as the feeling of satisfaction afterwards. This has been a major shift in her mindset. Midnight Runners has not only shown her how to test her limits, but has taught to enjoy that process. Now she relishes the challenge, and has been able to apply this mindset to other areas in her life, such as in her Taekwondo belt upgrading exams.
“I used to be so terrified of this exam. I cared so much about it that I wanted to do it absolutely perfectly. This year there was some kind of change in my mind. I decided to take it upfront, instead of being scared, I felt that I had more courage, decided to learn harder, to go to more classes and to learn better. I did what I could do, knowing that it was not the end of the world, that if I practice, I’ll probably do well. I think that I got this confidence inspired by the crazy challenges that many MR crew members take.”
Now nothing seems to be too big a challenge for Olatz, including running in the Ragnar Relay last year in Hamburg. Being one of the only members of her team who was still new to running, she was worried about being the weakest leg. Midnight Runners gave her the support and confidence she needed and helped her to train hard the summer leading up to the event. She had a fantastic experience, made plenty of new friends, and has memories and confidence to last a lifetime.
“Running is a very interesting sport. It’s physically challenging as generally sports are, but it can also be very mentally challenging. When you are running long distances on your own, mental strength comes to be a very important factor. I have always found hard to run long distances, I still do….But through these last months I have learnt to push myself further and further.”
Olatz can’t thank Midnight Runners enough for not only helping her to improve her running and fitness, but also for helping her to build belief in herself and teach her that she can do anything she sets her mind to.
“For me it has been like meeting a second family. A family that is a little bit crazy, but also adventurous, loving and with similar ways of enjoying their free time as me (running and fitness). Mondays have become one of my favorite days of the week and starting a new week has become so exciting!”
She says that it is the energy that she and the other crew captains bring each week that inspires each other and the other participants to push themselves and test their limits.
“ I have realised how much our runners appreciate all the energy that we bring and that we can influence positively in our runners. I didn’t know that I could do that before! But as they love the energy, they also give it back! It’s like a contagious excitement loop.”
One of the main reasons why Olatz became a crew captain is so that she can help other people like her, those who have only just begun to run or are struggling to improve, find joy and fulfillment in the sport. She loves encouraging the new runners and watching them improve just as she did.
“If you have never been running with MR, please join us some day! in our sessions you are going to get tired yes, and you might struggle a little depending on your previous training, but one thing is guaranteed, you will have fun and by when you notice the bootcamp will be over and you’ll have moved forward in your training.”