Our positive running story this time is on Barbara Kaminska, a Polish runner from Texas. Barbara attended one of our women’s running camps in July 2019 (the same camp as our previous stories on Robin & Kim). Barbara motivated everyone at camp with her incredible enthusiasm for life and running! Barbara is pictured above on Flat Top mountain in RMNP, on one of our runs during our 2019 camp. We recently asked if we could interview Barbara for our positive running story series, and here is the result of our interview:
Can you share your brief running history to date?
I started running about twelve years ago. To be honest, I don’t remember exactly why I did – I think it seemed to me like an efficient workout that doesn’t necessarily take much time or cost much. Then I moved from Poland to Southern California for grad school, so I landed in one of the most gorgeous places on earth with perfect running weather. I got so used to running that I didn’t stop after moving away. For a long time, I just ran for and by myself, until in early Spring 2017 I decided to push beyond my usual 10-12k, and signed up for a half marathon. Well, about two weeks before the race, I fractured a bone, so that was it for my first half. But I loved the training process so much that I started signing up for races as soon as I could run again. So far, I’ve done several half marathons, one marathon, and countless races between 10 and 15k. The energy of race day is addictive!
What are the top three things you enjoy most about running, and why?
Probably that running is both so versatile and dependable. I travel a lot for work, and running has proved to be a perfect exercise. Whether it’s a three-day conference or a three-month research trip, I pack my running shoes and make sure to schedule some time, usually early in the morning, for a run. I love exploring while running, and there are so many wonderful places I’ve discovered that way: dunes in The Netherlands, lovely little towns and forests in central Germany, suburban parks across Europe, and of course countless American cities. While I love to travel, it can sometimes feel lonely, and running provides a kind of solace by being part of my life both at home and away. And on a daily basis, I’m always amazed how something so physically challenging can also be so meditative.
You have run several races in your career to date. What has been your favorite race you have experienced so far, and why?
A trail half marathon in Brazos Bend State Park outside Houston, which I ran in December 2018. It was raining really hard for two days before the race, and I wasn’t even sure if I would be able to get there due to local flooding. The weather got (slightly) better in the morning, and while the muddy trails were challenging and I had some problems with my hydration belt, all the runners and volunteers were extremely friendly and cheerful. It was probably the most “positive” race I’ve run so far, it was so much fun.
You attended our advanced women’s running camp in July last year. What was it that attracted you to come to camp, and what did you enjoy most about your camp experience?
For all my traveling, I had never been to Colorado, so definitely the location. I had never received any coaching either, and thought it was a good moment to learn more about running. The camp exceeded my expectations in so many ways, and I keep coming back to what I learned on the trails and at our workshops. I wouldn’t say this was what I enjoyed the most, but a very important moment for me was learning that so many of my fellow runners battled injuries. This will sound silly, but after my stress fracture a few years ago, I was convinced that I was somehow deficient as a runner. At the camp, I realized that injuries happen to everyone, and that as much as we try to prevent them, they are not personal failures.
At camp you came across as a very enthusiastic runner. Has this always been the case, and if not, what changed your mindset to switch to enthusiasm?
Yes, I think I’ve always been enthusiastic about running. I never had to run, I chose to do it, and felt that it allowed me to get better on my own schedule. My running story would not be complete without mentioning that at school I hated team sports, at which I was neither good nor cared much about. For many years, I was regarded as this nerdy kid who excelled at academics, but was too clumsy, chubby, and weak to participate in any sport. Even though I would regularly swim and bike, and ski in the winter, I began thinking about myself the way my teachers and classmates did. It wasn’t until I started running that my thinking slowly began to change. I discovered that, by putting some work into it, I could run for 30 minutes, one hour, without taking a walking break. In contrast to what I had always been told, I wasn’t too weak or too clumsy or whatever to do it. So, I think I’ve been enthusiastic about running because it’s been liberating in how I perceive myself.
You are part way through a virtual 200 miles in 15 weeks challenge. What was it that tempted you to register, and how is the challenge going so far?
It’s a charity event, so it offers a perfect combination of staying motivated and helping others. The challenge attracts all kinds of runners, and on our Facebook page we get posts from people who are training for their first 5k and those who do 100-milers. And you can see that all of them are working really hard, which sends a truly inclusive and positive message about running. I’m now eighty miles in, with ten more weeks to go!
How have you been managing with keeping active and training through the current COVID-19 pandemic?
I’ve definitely had to adjust my routine. I miss swimming and barre classes, and with parks closed, I can only run in my neighborhood. But I feel fortunate that the weather has been nice, and that I have space and some basic equipment to work out at home. I’ve been trying new types of exercises, and I’m finally paying enough attention to hydration and nutrition. I’m grateful for the luxury of social distancing, having a job, and staying healthy so far; in a way, I’ve probably never appreciated being able to train as much as I do now.
What wisdoms would you share with a younger version of yourself about being a woman runner?
Cross training, stretching, and rest days are all important. Our bodies need them!
If we could share one message on your behalf to the World, what would you wish to say?
Keep doing what you enjoy doing, and be less of a perfectionist. Not all of us will finish Boston Marathon in the top 10%, work at NASA, or play at Carnegie Hall, but it doesn’t mean that our hard work is worthless. (This is also something I would tell my younger self.)
Can you share one thing that is unique about Barbara that no one would know by looking at you?
My favorite movie genre is film noir. I find fatalistic stories of crime and opportunistic relationships, shot in black and white (and ideally with some jazz music in the background), to be absolutely fascinating – and very relaxing to watch!
What are your goals for the rest of 2020 and beyond?
With the pandemic, I began focusing on setting short-term goals, e.g. scheduling my runs and cross training for the upcoming week. I want to keep up my energy and motivation, and thinking too far ahead can be overwhelming right now. That said, my goal is to run some trail half marathons next winter and early spring, and come back for a marathon to the Brazos Bend Park in Spring 2021. There, I said it. Now I have to do it!
Barbara, thank you so much for taking the time to share your story with us, and we look forward to many years of running ahead for you! We know your energy will be well placed, and that you will find ways to maintain motivation through challenging times. The trails are calling….
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