Marina Martínez Sánchez, 30, shares the magic of running after dark and finding your like-minded tribe.

By Marina Martínez Sánchez
Courtesy of Reebok

When people see me leading runs along the bike paths in Los Angeles on Wednesday nights, music cranking from a portable mini speaker, they often join in. Or come back the following week, saying, “I need to get into this group.”

I know the feeling because that was actually me four years ago.

I had moved to London with just a suitcase and a backpack. When I landed there, I really wanted to find a community to belong to. One night, something called the Midnight Runners club popped up on Facebook. I was intrigued. Weeks went by, but I remembered that the club ran every Tuesday. I finally told myself, You’re not going to postpone checking this out anymore.

By the time I joined, the runs had shifted from midnight to 8 p.m. Still, it was dark, music was pumping, and everybody was smiling. How was it possible that they were running and talking? That first night, I could hardly keep up, much less hold a conversation. I grew up swimming, and I’d competed at long distances, but this was tough. I just told myself that it’s a process and that this would be my hobby, to see where my body and mind could go. (Related: How to Scare Yourself Into Being Stronger, Healthier, and Happier)

Week after week, we ran different routes, so I was actually getting to explore the city. And talking with others not only kept me going but helped me see my progress—“OK, now I can run five miles without struggling to speak.”

These days I live in Los Angeles, and I’m the one who maps out the routes for my pack of Midnight Runners. We do six-mile runs at 7 p.m. during the week and go longer on Sundays. I still swim—that’s something my body craves—but these runs are a social experience. They are reassuring, as though we’re all in this together. (Don't believe it? Read about the power of having a fitness tribe, according to Jen Widerstrom.)

Shape Magazine, May 2019 issue
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