Name: Maria Laurenti
Hometown: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Occupation: Marketing Analyst
Time Running: One year and nine months
Reason for Running: I run to feel confident, strong, and be the healthiest version of myself.
When I was in high school, we had state testing in which you had to run a mile. I could never run that mile, no matter how hard I tried. But in the summer of 2011, I once again decided to challenge myself to run a mile. Once I accomplished that, I signed up for my first ever 5K. I had a boyfriend at the time who told me I could never run a 5K and I was wasting my time—so I broke up with him and I ran the dang thing.
I kept running about one to three miles until I developed plantar fasciitis and unfortunately, stopped running for a long time.
It wasn’t until March 2021 that I started running again. I didn’t like the way that I looked or the way that I felt. When I looked in the mirror, I didn’t see me anymore. And I didn’t feel like me anymore. I felt like I lost myself after leaving my previous career path, and I was turning to food to deal with my stress and emotions. Then the pandemic hit, making everything much worse for me.
I decided to sign up for a virtual 5K for my 29th birthday in April 2021. I remembered feeling confident and happy in my skin when I ran in the past, and that motivated me to give it a go once more.
However, the beginning of getting back into running was rough. I could barely run two driveways away from my own before walking. I had to create little games for myself to push myself. Run two driveways, walk two driveways, and repeat for one mile. And I continued making little games like this. It wasn’t fun, but I was so proud of myself when I ran that 5K for my birthday.
Another motivation for me to start running again was that I was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in 2018, after having a colonoscopy and an endoscopy and “everything looked normal.” I felt very unwell, so being told everything looks “normal” and that I just have IBS, I didn’t feel like anything was answered. I decided to investigate what foods made me unwell by keeping a food journal, and also realized I needed to start incorporating exercise into my daily life.
A challenge I faced when starting to run was that every time I would try to get into the swing of exercise, I would get sick with bad chest congestion or get a brutal stye. It was really difficult to stay committed when I felt like I kept getting knocked down.
My doctor also told me I needed to start trying to eat healthier and incorporate exercise into my life, and I knew she was right. She was extremely kind and said I needed to be kind to myself because many people were eating and drinking more during the pandemic and gaining weight.
When I first started running, I was also doing strength-training exercises. I ran two to four times a week at that point. When I really shed weight, I was running almost daily. This was when I signed up for a summer running challenge, which involved running 300 miles for the summer season. This challenge kept me motivated and I earned a medal for completing the challenge. I also ran a few other virtual races, some solo and others with friends.
Today, races and challenges still keep me motivated. I was just having a slump after I had a horrible half-marathon experience at the September 2022 Philadelphia Distance Run. I ran a 100-mile challenge for the month of December, have an in-person 10K scheduled for the beginning of February, and another half marathon in Disney planned for the end of February with one of my close friends.
I’m currently training for my half marathon for the end of February, and am following a training plan through the Nike Run Club app. I didn’t train for my last half marathon, and I think that is why I failed so miserably. I like to look at things analytically and see how I can improve or what I can change so I can do better in the future.
I currently have a goal to run a marathon in 2024. This is such a huge goal and it seems so unreachable right now, but I want to do this once in my lifetime. I think if I continue training at the rate I am, I can do it.
I also adjusted my eating habits. My doctor and I decided I should switch to macro and calorie counting. I did that for a while, and it came to the point that I realized I can’t be doing this for the rest of my life. I needed to learn how much to eat and to trust myself to listen to my body when it feels hungry. I’m trying to accept food freedom currently and seeing how this works for me.
I’m finding my love for running again. When you have that love, it feels incredible. It is absolutely freeing. It’s also brought me an incredible community of people that I never would have met if it wasn’t for social media. Connect with these communities because they will help you stay motivated.
Running has also given me confidence. I really had to build a relationship with myself and trust myself. I’ve developed an inner monologue that helps push me into running farther distances, and I give myself pep talks. Now that I do this, it helps me feel more confident outside of running. I feel like I can go into a social setting where I know no one, and my inner monologue kicks in: “You are strong, you are kind, you are a good person.” I never had this confidence prior to starting running in March 2021!
These three habits have made my running journey a success:
1. Set small, achievable goals for yourself
If you only set an end goal, you are going to feel overwhelmed. If you set smaller goals, you will feel pride every time you cross a goal off and keep going. I use this when I’m running to push myself further—finish the song, run to the next lamp post, run another quarter mile— and then I reassess if I can do it again or if I need to stop.
2. Surround yourself with a positive community
My Instagram account @sweatylaurenti has provided me with such a kind, warm, and supportive community who encourages me and believes in my success. This has helped me more than any of them could know.
3. Learn from your mistakes
I allow myself to have time to feel sad and sorry for myself, then I go back and reflect to see what I can do the next time to improve. Do not take a failure as the end of your journey.
Maria’s Must-Have Gear
→ Nuun Sport Electrolyte Tablets: I sweat a lot and when I run hard, I have salt come through my pores. It’s important to replenish your electrolytes after running, and the watermelon flavor is the BEST! It doesn’t leave me feeling crummy after, like a lot of the fake sugar-sweetened products do.
→ Lilac Market Headbands: These headbands are so cute and comfortable. They help keep my devil horns (hair regrowth) tamed, and they absorb my sweat so it doesn’t drip down my face and get in my eyes.
→ SpiBelt: This is the most comfortable way to carry my necessities with me on an outdoor run. I can fit my phone, key, and some gels for a hands-free run.
→ Roll Recovery R3 Foot Roller: I previously stopped running because I developed plantar fasciitis. It was the worst pain. I could barely walk and had to go through a lot of physical therapy. This tool has helped me keep the foot pain at bay. This is a must-have.
Emily Shiffer is a freelance health and wellness writer living in Pennsylvania.