Alumni Feature: Meet Karla!

Meet Karla, a Students Run LA alum. After five years with SRLA, she realized running is the best stress reliever in life. The lessons learned through SRLA have empowered her to keep going even when it gets tough.

Q: Where did you run with Students Run LA? What years did you participate? Who were your leaders?
A: I ran SRLA from 8th grade all the way up to senior year of high school, so a total of 5 years consecutively. In 8th grade I ran with Stella Middle Charter Academy (2012) and in high school I ran with Bright Star Secondary Charter Academy (2013-2016).

Q: Why did you join SRLA?
A: I struggled a lot in middle school when it came to making friends and being in sports. I tried every sport my school offered but I didn’t enjoy any of them.

I grew up in LA so I would cheer on runners of the LA Marathon with my father. When I heard there was a club that ran marathons I tried finding all the information I could about it. I remember not being able to join SRLA in 7th grade because I was too young. Finally, 8th grade year came along and I joined SRLA! It was a different kind of sport that captivated me from the start. The idea that I could run 26.2 miles down the streets of my city of LA sparked something in me that no other sport could.

Q: Do you remember what training was like as a SRLA participant? Do you have a favorite SRLA memory?
A: My SRLA team would run short distances on the weekdays and long distances on the weekends. I loved long distance runs because they allowed me to reflect on myself for long periods of time. With every step I took I was pushing my body and mind to do things I didn’t know I could do. Not only did I have time to be self-reflect but also be motivational.

I loved running with my teammates because when it comes to running the smallest act of encouragement can go a long way. A simple smile, high five, or even few words of encouragement can mean SO much to someone. All my races were amazing memories but my favorite of all time is the 18-mile Friendship Run. I enjoy being a rebel and I remember being told by past runners that the Friendship Run is one of the toughest races. Being the hardheaded runner I was, I told myself that race would be my best and till this day it’s one of my favorite races.

Q: What are you doing now?
A: I am a sophomore at UCLA hoping to major in Geography and Environment Studies with a minor in Education Studies. I’m currently working for the UCLA Payroll department and plan to get more involved in other clubs.

Q: What lessons did you learn in SRLA that you still use today, if any?
A: There are so many lessons I learned from SRLA that I don’t even know where to start. And all of the things I learned are more than applicable to my life today.

But the most important lesson I learned is to use running as a stress reliever.

I think a lot of my success in high school is thanks to the structure SRLA provided me with. The fact that I had to prepare myself for races through practice gave me stability. Exercising was simply part of my lifestyle. And at the time I hadn’t realized that all the running I was doing was helping me release stress from academics. I was really involved in high school and kept myself busy with more than one thing. Now that I am in college and hardly have time to run, I get stressed really easily. Transitioning into college was really tough on me because the culture shock gave me imposter syndrome. I went from being a well-rounded outgoing student to a more reserved and easily stressed out person. I hit a tough spot in my college career recently and got very demotivated. Right when I was ready to throw in the towel, I started reflecting on the moments in my life where I have felt empowered. The memories of how it felt to cross the finish line rekindled something in me. Those memories make me smile and remind me that I am more than capable of accomplishing large things, 26.2 miles to be exact. I am currently working on myself. What I mean by this is I am learning to appreciate myself again through running. Running was my outlet and my way of distressing. Starting to run again, even if its short distances, has helped in more ways than I could explain. So the biggest lesson I learned in SRLA that I still use today is use running as a stress reliever!

Q: Do you still run?
A: My busy college-student schedule makes it challenging to fit long runs into my schedule so I only run for 10 to 20 minutes a few times a week. This year will be my second year not running the LA Marathon and it breaks my heart. But my goal is to start conditioning and saving up to run the LA Marathon next year because it was such a huge factor in my life.

Q: Do you have any advice for current SRLA students, related to life and or running?
A: Run life at your own pace. Whether it be a race that you’re running in or the path towards your future, do it at your own pace. It’s easy to compare yourself with others and as humans we tend to do that with people or things around us. It’s easy to get disheartened if you compare yourself to others. That’s why it’s so important to remember that only you are living for yourself and if you run a little faster or a little slower, that’s okay. If you take longer or shorter to complete a path, that’s okay. As long as you are challenging yourself to grow as a person, it doesn’t matter how fast or slow you accomplish it. You’re your own competition.

Join alumni as they celebrate the impact SRLA had on their life at SRLA PRESENTS The UnitedLA 5K on June 10 at Griffith Park. Register today! To share your alumni story, click here.