Ricky Barrios

Interview with a Runner

This week’s runner is Ricky Barrios. Ricky comes from the northwest suburbs of Chicago. He moved to DC in 2005 for undergrad and just forgot to move back home. He now lives in upper North West with three platonic female roommates. Ricky ran track throughout high school and most of college. He stopped running due to a myriad of injuries, but after undergrad, picked it up again. He is now primarily a marathoner, having completed five since 2010, his best being a 2:44 finish in the 2013 Marine Corp Marathon. Ricky is on track to be a very impressive marathoner and has to reign in his enthusiasm to levels his body can handle. He fears this will be a lifelong balancing act. We are honored to have Ricky as our DC coach for our events with Team Fox this winter/spring.

Ricky (far left) and friends celebrating post Big Sur MarathonWhen did you start running?
I started running in 6th grade, when Track and Field was offered as a spring sport. Once I discovered I was pretty good at it, I couldn’t get enough. As a youth, all my friends biked everywhere, but I didn’t know how (I do now), so I opted to run alongside their bikes. I gained a reputation as that kid who ran everywhere. Pretty soon it didn’t even matter that I couldn’t ride a bike. I started up again a year after college once I realized that I couldn’t eat everything I wanted and keep the pounds off. I ran my first marathon on a whim. The Girls Gotta Run Foundation needed volunteers to run for them, and I had always thought about running a marathon. Signing up was just the push I needed to train consistently. Since then, I try to raise money for a good cause with as many races as I can.

What inspires you to run?
I’d always heard people talking about the “runner’s high” like it was something that just clicked and boom, you feel great. I’ve never gotten that. I feel achy and like my muscles are on fire. But in the last 3 years I’ve gotten something sort of like that, more of a confident calm that comes with pounding out mile after mile. If I just ran 25.2 miles, what’s one more? I never feel more adept than when I’m running. What inspires me is that if I can feel like I know what I’m doing when I’m wearing trainers and short shorts, I should be able to transfer that over into my waking life.

What is your favorite running route? Why?
I have a 9.5 mile route that I can run in my sleep. It’s my favorite because I can always convince myself to just go one more mile, and pretty soon it’s done. I’ve run it so often that it doesn’t require any mental fortitude on my part. Also, it takes me through many different parts of DC. From my house I run up past the National Zoo, up past the National Cathedral. It’s always very scenic and peaceful. And in the second half of the run, there’s little pedestrian traffic, so I can do all sorts of speed work without having to worry about being interrupted.

Favorite post-run meal?
The very first thing I do when I get in from a run is drink 1 glass of Gatorade and then 1 glass of a chocolate protein mix. That usually holds me over until I can make dinner. I eat pounds and pounds of pasta. Nothing fills me up and gives me energy I need as much as it. The annoying thing is that if I don’t eat enough at dinner, I’ll wake up painfully hungry well before breakfast. My favorite pasta dish is a simple clam sauce pesto linguine my mom used to make for me before track meets. It still hits the spot.

Best piece of running advice?
“Remember this feeling on days you don’t feel like getting out. Remember this feeling and you will.”  My high school coach said that to me my sophomore year when we didn’t qualify for the state track meet for the 4X800. I felt so angry and disappointed with myself. I expected him to be furious with us as well, but he was as calm as I’d ever seen him, and just told us to remember that feeling. I think that was the last thing he said to any of us. My coach ended up dying the following Monday. So on days when I feel like taking a nap, or just skipping the run altogether, I remember that I’d rather be happy having reached my goal on race day than being disappointed in myself like that again.

Are you running for fun or sport? 
Isn’t sport the fun? I’m trying to whittle my marathon time down as close to 2:30:00 as I can, which is the easy part. 14 minutes to go. I’m also trying to get there while taking care of myself and not getting reinjured. If I can figure out a way to get the miles, the pace, and the lifting in place while staying in one piece, I’m sure the time will follow.

Favorite way to sweat other than run?
In the last year I’ve taken up weight lifting as a general upkeep activity. I used to think of it as necessary evil to getting faster, but now I’m actually coming to enjoy it. My favorite lift is the calf raise. I suffer from recurring Achilles tendon strains, so having seen myself barely able to lift my body to now doing twice my body weight, has been really humbling and makes me thankful.