My cousins visited my house and rested their arms on my shoulder, hinting to me that I’m small for my age compared to them.
At every holiday when my family gets together I would hear the typical Hispanic saying “¿Y si come?, se ve muy flaquito,” which means “Does he eat? He looks very thin.”
I have two siblings, a sister and an older brother named Javier. We are 10 years apart and our structural builds are very different. When my brother Javier was born he was 10 pounds, I was born 5 pounds. In addition to this I was not only this small as an infant but throughout childhood.
The doctor would show my parents how I wasn’t in the growth percentile where I should be. As a child hearing this felt normal because I have heard it so many times, I somewhat accepted it. I became numb to it.
Javier was a prodigy in soccer throughout high school and college, so my parents signed me up every year up until the age of 12 when I quit. Quitting made me find my true self and created new friendships with kids that had the same interests as me. I felt as if I was living in his shadows and my parents wanted to match his childhood with mine.
Being smaller than the other kids made me feel less powerful and I felt that people didn’t take me seriously. I didn’t have the best coordination, or the best swing, kick or jump and would get pummeled around in contact sports.
One day Mrs. Loften, my physical education teacher at Magruder Middle School, announced to the class that she and another teacher would be holding a running club after school.
The following week I decided to join the club and it’s where I found my love for long-distance running.
I wasn’t planning to take it seriously and joined out of boredom.
The goal of this club was to train year long to build endurance so we’d be in shape to run from school to the beach–about 4 miles.
When it finally came along I finished the run and thought to myself, “I wonder if I could do it faster.”
When I reached high school I joined the track team at North High School in Torrance. I specifically joined sprints because I didn’t know distance events existed. I was getting pummeled in sprints but I could outrun the seniors on their “long-run”.
I was introduced to the distance coach and that very first track meet I won my first track race against Beverly Hills High School.
I was no longer a hobby jogger, I wanted to win.
On the line at the races all the other kids had the same build as me, I finally found a sport where I felt at home.
We were lean, mean running machines.
I became addicted to the thrill running would give me and there was only one other freshman who could beat me, Dawit Abebe. To this day he’s still my best friend. We both went through high school training hard and eventually went on to win several cross country meets as a team.
When the start gun would go off at meets I could feel the adrenaline going through me–smelling the scent of the blank bullet and the hot rubber track.
When graduation came along I was sad that the sport I loved and worked on so hard was going to end. The team had a bond that created lifelong friendships.
Out of high school, I didn’t have a major locked down so I decided to attend EC where I joined the cross country and track team.
This sport allowed me to regain my confidence and compete at the collegiate level.
Without running I don’t know where I would be academically or athletically, but give me a pair of split shorts, singlet, track spikes and I look and feel powerful.
Running gives me the drive to move on in life, step by step.