by HURIEH ABED
With determination, hard work and an undeniable passion for running, Eliana Ramirez, a junior conservation biology major, is in her third year on the University of Mary Washington’s cross country and track team.
Ramirez began running in elementary school, when she had the choice of continuing ballet or running, and she chose to run. In third grade, she decided to join Girls on the Run, which is a nationwide non-profit organization that encourages girls to find confidence by running. At her elementary school, Girls on the Run was an after-school club that also had a Boys on the Run equivalent.
When the club members competed, they ran a 5k, and a partner outside of the club, such as their parents, could join them in the race. Ramirez ran with her father.
In middle school, she joined the distance team in track and field. She ran events like the 100- and the 400-meter dash, which led her to realize that she preferred distance running.
“I found out I was not a sprinter. I liked longer distances better,” said Ramirez.
Ramirez continued to run in high school, where she joined the cross country and track and field team. Though she liked running long-distance, the cross-country season proved to be a challenge.
“The hard part about cross country is that I run on any terrain no matter what the weather is. It could be muddy, 40 degrees and rainy and we still have to run because that is what cross country is,” she said.
Because Ramirez did not like running in the cold and preferred warmer weather, she switched to indoor track in the winter and ran outdoor track in the spring season. She used this as an opportunity to keep herself immersed in the world of running but on her own terms.
“Cross country and track and field helped me stay active and form connections within the team,” she said.
Ramirez highlighted the differences between her running career in high school versus now at the university level.
“Cross country at university is a bit different from high school, where instead of everyone running a 5k, the women run a 6k and the men run a 8k,” she said. “Training at a university level is a lot of work and the workouts are more intense.”
The UMW cross-country team does not have a cross-country course, so Ramirez always has to race at other universities, such as Shenandoah University, Christopher Newport University, Bridgewater College and Rowan University.
For the UMW track and field team, she competes in both the winter and spring seasons. During the winter, she has to run more laps around the indoor track because it is smaller. For instance, one mile on an outdoor track is four laps while on an indoor track, a mile is eight laps.
When she decided to do indoor track, she thought that the conditions would be better than the ones for cross country, but she quickly learned that was not the case.
“Running indoors is harder than outdoors because everybody is packed in a tight space and there is no fresh air to breathe. We are all breathing each other’s air,” she said.
Ramirez mainly uses winter track to stay in shape for the spring season. She runs in the 800-meter event during the winter season and occasionally will be put into the 1500-meter, competing in a mix of home and away meets.
No matter if she is running indoors or outdoors, for track or cross country, Ramirez loves to run and sticks with it because of the sense of community it has fostered for her throughout her life.
“The community at UMW is close and that is why I like it so much. We do a lot of things as a team,” she said. “If I didn’t end up choosing to run over dance I don’t know what my life would have looked like.”