Each month, we spotlight one standout Whippet on the team. Meet Carolina Pena, a Santiago, Chile native who joined the Whippets three and a half years ago. Last year, she smashed the team record for the marathon in Berlin, finishing in 2:51:31, and hasn’t lost her momentum since. After dazzling on the track and roads, she won Runner of the Year for her age group at this year’s NYRR Club Night. Most recently, she blew us away at the NYC Half with a new PR (1:20:13) and with a strong finish at the Paris Marathon this past weekend. If you haven’t guessed it by now, we’re pretty damn proud of Carolina.
When this speedy mother of four isn’t running in Central Park or spending time with her family, she’s working as a stylist and personal shopper. Read on as we talk all things running with Carolina, from balancing training and family to her future race goals. We love all that she brings to the team, from her infectious spirit to her genuine love of the sport.
How and when did you first start running?
I started running in 2008, simply because I had four young kids and needed to find a time-efficient way to workout. I joined the Whippets hoping to find someone to run with.
What are your preferred race distances? How many half marathons and marathons have you run?
Anything above 10 miles. I truly hate short races—I don’t like the feeling that your heart’s going to explode—but I do love track. So far, I’ve run seven marathons, including the Paris Marathon last weekend.
What is your favorite Whippet event?
I have to say the annual holiday party! Sadly, I can never make the Tuesday and Thursday night workouts because of my schedule. I wake up at 5:30 am or 6 am to run during the week so that I can be back by 7 am.
Where do you love to run in the city?
I love to run anywhere in New York, but honestly it’s just usually more time efficient for me to run in Central Park. My kids usually ask, “When are you coming back?” before I leave, so I have to calculate exactly how long my run is going to take!
What is your proudest race moment?
100% when I crossed the finish line at the Berlin Marathon last year. I worked so hard to be fit for that race. I was so proud of myself for doing the training, running the race, and I felt so strong at the end—it was amazing. My coach Sean Fortune gave me the hardest speed workouts of my life. I even did a 23 mile run. That was the first time I’ve done such a long run before a marathon, and is the last!
What are your current and future running goals?
Right now I just want to stay fit and run for the love of doing it. For Paris, I didn’t follow a training plan. I didn’t track how many miles I ran per week, nor did I stop drinking my daily glass of wine. However, I discovered the pleasure of training without any pressure.
How old are your children? Are they runners too?
Valentina (17), Lucas (almost 15), Dominga (13) and Sara (10). They all run and compete. I don’t give them the choice not to—it’s part of their education. Plus, I know they will end up loving it. My three oldest compete in track and cross country.
What’s your secret to balancing family and training? Do you have any advice for running moms and dads out there?
Balance? It all depends on your goal, but it’s hard. I only train for marathons. For the rest I just run whatever workout the other person is doing or any distance I have the time for.
When I am really training for a marathon I feel that I am not doing anything really well, and that is the hard part. When I am training I wake up early to start my runs so I can be back home by 7 am I get so tired, and when you are tired that means you don’t have a lot of patience. By 7 pm, that can mean a lot of yelling. I skip a lot of school talks or meetings in the mornings, so sometimes you feel that you are not a good parent. I have my job, too, so I can’t go to the gym or cross train to make my body stronger and faster, and be the best runner I want to be. But the biggest part is, you still have to have a social life. My husband and I go out a lot, so it’s hard when your “date nights” are the night before a speed day or a long run.
So the secret is to do EVERYTHING! Personally, I can’t just be a mom. I need all the areas in my life to be busy so I feel like I’m not missing anything. I can’t give up running, working, kids, or my heels. My secret is just embracing the feeling that I know I can be better, but I won’t put that pressure on myself.