Running Equilibrium With Cris Gutierrez

February 20, 2024

Running offers incredible physical and mental benefits, but it’s important to acknowledge that sometimes setbacks are part of the sport. At times, balancing the highs and the lows can be challenging. Team Injinji Athlete Cris Gutierrez has had a long-time passion for running, but his journey through the sport hasn’t always been easy. In this blog, Cris shares about his relationship with running through the years, and what he has learned through his competitive career.

How did your passion for running develop? What sparked your initial interest in the sport?

The initial spark in this sport started in middle school, specifically in P.E. class. I was obsessed with the mile run we'd run weekly. Our school had special shirts that said "6 Minute Mile Club" on the back for those who broke seven minutes. The chase to get the shirt is what started it all. After middle school, my best friend at the time, Katie, encouraged me to come out for the cross-country team. As the season progressed, I found myself immediately hooked. My interest in the sport as a whole kicked off when I found the DyeStat Message boards. After that, I was fully bought in.

How has your relationship with running evolved over the years?

I had a fairly toxic relationship with running as I started to come into my own as an athlete in my early years. I found myself obsessed with the sport and saw a lot of setbacks due to my inability to be patient with progress. It took a massive toll on my mental health for many of my early years in the sport. Following a season-ending injury in my junior year of college, I focused on repairing and maintaining a healthy relationship with running.

I left competitive running for about two years post-graduate school and took that time to focus on enjoying running without competition. I spent a lot of my time around social running clubs, trying to focus on community rather than my own running goals. When I decided to start competing with myself again in 2018, I made a promise to myself that no matter what happened, I would make sure that I was still enjoying this.

As I've improved in the sport, I've still kept tabs on my relationship with running. I find a ton of fun in this sport, and I try to keep my mindset framed around racing as a fun challenge. Whether it's running a local 10k or trying to chase the Olympic Trials standard, keeping a healthy relationship with running is the most important thing.

In what ways have you found involvement with the running community? How have these connections influenced your perspective of the sport?

During what I call my sabbatical from competitive running post-graduate school, I found involvement with our local pub running groups, specifically Grandview Running Club and Short North Running Club. I used these groups mainly as a social outlet and to meet people in my new city.

I hold these groups in very high regard because they were able to shift my perspective in a very impactful way. Competitive running tends to be fairly siloed within its own community. My experiences with these local groups provided me with the opportunity to connect with a group of people that were in various stages of their running journeys: former college athletes, veteran runners, and new runners trying the sport for the first time. These communities were an excellent place to meet new friends from all walks of life, with no pressure. No one felt out of place by their ability levels and at the end of it all, we got to relax and enjoy each other's company. This was vital to my development as an athlete. Finding running as a form of community, rather than a means to an end.

As I found my footing, I built my own running clubs and teams. First with the Hoof Hearted Brewing Running Club, then an inclusive Midwest racing team with Ope Athletic Club. Most recently, it's been through our Wednesday Morning Workout group here in Columbus that welcomes athletes across all levels.

How do you balance training for races (especially longer distances!) with your personal life?

It's taken quite a bit of time to settle into a schedule that is conducive to training for long distances. I'm a marathoner so I typically find myself up to about 80-90 miles per week (with a day off) during a build. I build my training schedule around the important things in my life, such as my career, coaching, and social events. My weekly schedule is usually pretty consistent, so I try to get a lot of my miles in before work during the weekday and tack on mileage before and after the social run club groups in the evenings. I try to keep tabs on my energy levels so that running is not detrimental to those priorities in my life.

It's a fairly busy life of going from one thing to another, but I've found that there is typically enough time in the day to get out for at least an hour in the morning without losing sleep. I keep training as a priority. I know what days I have workouts and make sure that I make time in my schedule to get them done. If you want it, you can schedule time for it. I try to fit in runs with friends as often as I can during the week too to keep things enjoyable. We have a group chat of pals who are always willing to jump in and knock out some miles before or after work.

Can you share your favorite or most memorable moment in your running career?

The 2023 California International Marathon is probably the highlight for me so far. I put myself in a position to try and qualify for the Olympic Trials and was still on pace through 20 miles. I ultimately didn't reach my goal of 2:18:00 but ran 2:19:13, a four-minute personal best at that distance and by far the best performance of my running career. As I came down the final stretch, I became emotional thinking about my 17-year journey, from not being very competitive in high school to trying to qualify for the Olympic Trials. It was all surreal.

What advice would you give to other athletes struggling to maintain a balanced relationship with running?

Surround yourself with people who also have a healthy relationship with running or that you enjoy being around outside of running. I've found that this sport can be a real grind, but if you can fill most of the time that you're doing it surrounded by good people, it ends up being so fulfilling, regardless of the result.

Running can be a priority, but it should not be the be-all end-all. Your performances do not define who you are as a person or a runner. Find something that you enjoy outside of running that you can lean on when things aren't the best and keep checking in on your relationship with the sport. Most of us aren't professional runners. We're not depending on this for our salary. Keep it fun, and you'll find it'll give back tenfold.

What’s your favorite song to listen to while training?

Ganbatte by Pogo. There are no lyrics, but that song is perfect for getting me pumped up for a workout rep.

What is your go-to pair of Injinji socks on race day?

The Artist Designed Men's Mini-Crew for marathons, and the Artist Designed Men's No-Show for track races.

Take Cris’s story as an example to find inspiration in the communities around you — local running clubs are a great way to keep running fun while chasing your dreams!