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By RunChi member Miguel Blancarte, Jr.

The sun beamed right at my face and I could not help but open my eyes. I reached for my phone and it was 6:42 a.m. on Saturday morning. I have a bad habit of checking my email and Facebook upon opening my eyes – even if I do go back to bed because it’s too early to wake up.

The first item on my newsfeed was from a friend, Sara K. Larsen, she had checked in to Fleet Feet Sports, and her post read: “The last time I was here my water broke! I feel like I’ve changed so much in the pasta 11 weeks. Being a part of Fleet Feet & CES makes me a better person and a better Mom. I’m excited to make new connections, see my #CES family, help myself stay on a healthy path and help others do the same. #runCHI”

Had it been any other post, I would have rotated 90 degrees and turned my back to the sun. Training hasn’t officially started for the winter and, “Saturday morning at 6:42 a.m.? It is too early to wake up, go back to bed,” a voice would have said.

I laid there on my bed, with my phone on my right hand beside my hip, and the sun still beaming at me. I had a choice to make: I could either go back to sleep, OR, I could get up, change, and check-in to Fleet Feet Sports as well – and attend the Chicago Endurance Sports Winter Warriors open house where I would have another option of running either 1, 3 or 5 miles.

I opted for the latter.

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It may have been per chance that I woke up at 6:42 a.m. with enough time to arrive to the 8:00 a.m. open house; it may have been per chance that the first post on my newsfeed was from a great friend about running; but it was my decision to get up and go for a Saturday morning run.

My decision, however, was influenced by Sara, by her post, by her dedication. We are both members of two running communities, Fleet Feet Sports Chicago RunChi and Chicago Endurance Sports, and this is important. It is important because as members, we create communities, and those communities not only influence others but they also hold you accountable – not to others, but to yourself.

As I lay in bed trying to decide, I told myself, “I need to get a run in this weekend and it may not happen tomorrow.” Then the other voice was telling me, “…but it will probably happen tomorrow.” It didn’t take me much time to hold myself accountable, but, my accountability was reinforced and perhaps brought upon bySara. I thought to myself, “Sara recently gave birth and she is going to run today.” “I want to see Sara and all of my CES friends.” “I want to run!”

Winter is nearing and as a runner, it is crucial to have a support network, it is important to be part of a running community, to hold yourself accountable to running. Running in Chicago during the winter is fun and it’s not. It is hard work but it’s invigorating. It is tough but it gets easier the more you do it. Like most things, in order for it to become easier and more enjoyable, making it a habit is important and consistency is key.

As I drove to Fleet Feet Sports, the sun continued to shine, I realized it was a perfect (and perhaps unseasonably warm mid-November) day for running, and, I decided I was going to run 5 miles.

The first person I saw as I walked into Fleet Feet was Sara, and naturally, I went up to her, said a quick and quiet “Hi Sara!” and gave her a hug. Because announcements were in progress, I didn’t have a chance to express my gratitude to her but, it’s never too late. Sara: THANK YOU!

Today is Sunday, the day after, and I just returned from running with Viento – Little Village Runners Club, a running club in my community where I sit on the executive board. Today’s waking up was not per chance, I purposefully set an alarm (okay, 4 alarms) to ensure that I would be at today’s weekly Sunday 7:00 a.m. morning run –which is usually led by Jessica and Carlos. Instead of driving there, I ran there. To #VientoLVRC: thank you as well, for being there, for keeping to the schedule, and for being an amazing and empowering community and support network.

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Remember, community and network are important to accountability, that accountability is made easier through habit, and that habit is built by and through consistency.

Run! And run happy. #RunChi

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Miguel Blancarte, Jr. is a 28-year old native and resident of Chicago, IL. He lost 180 pounds in 8 months and now has lost over 200 pounds, making a transformation (on his own) via a healthy lifestyle of exercise and dieting. He is the founder of www.Toward180.com, a proud member of Team USA, a Nathan Sports Athlete, an Ambassador for Fleet Feet Sports, a Pacer for Chicago Endurance Sports, and an Ambassador for Ragnar Relay Series. He is an avid runner who hopes to run all World Major Marathons. Tweet Miguel at @mblancartejr

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