Runner Spotlight: Eric Pico

When did you begin running and why?
When I finished college, I started struggling with my weight. So, on occasions, I would run on a treadmill until I lost a few pounds. Then a few months later I’d gain everything back. This yo-yo cycle continued and spiraled out of control when I went back to school. During law school I not only struggled with my weight but fell into deep depression and anxiety. A friend suggested I start running to help with the anxiety and get my weight back under control. This lead me to sign up and finish the National Marathon in 2011.

How did you find out about DCRRC and when did you join?
Even after my first marathon I still struggled with everything. I gained back all my weight plus some additional pounds. I think I stopped weighing myself after the scale read 235 lbs. but I’m pretty sure I was at least 240 lbs. After I graduated in 2012 I bounced around different running groups and meetups in the DC area attempting to get back into running and change my lifestyle. It wasn’t until I joined my first Ragnar Team in 2014 that someone suggested the DCRRC. More than half the people in my Ragnar van met through the group. After the relay race I knew I had to sign up for the DCRRC marathon program and run another marathon.

What are you training for right now?
One of my goals is to complete a marathon in all 50 states so currently I’m signed up for the Myrtle Beach Marathon, the Coastal Delaware Running Festival, and the Portland Marathon. I’m also signed up to run the DCRRC Snowball Series and the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run. I try to sign up for races a year in advance to take advantage of those early bird specials.

What is the toughest run or race you’ve ever participated in?
The toughest race I ever participated in was probably my first marathon. After I signed up for the race I downloaded a Hal Higdon Training Program and tried my best to stick to the program. I didn’t have a GPS watch or anything to track distance, so for about 4 months I would run up and down the W&OD trail because it had markers every half mile. I had no idea what I was doing or how to train properly. On race day I think everything just fell apart. During the second half of the marathon I remember running through Southeast DC as hard as I could only to see everyone pass me by. I was so confused because in my head and body I was running at world record pace effort. After the marathon I could barely climb stairs or walk for days.

What’s your favorite part about being a DCRRC member?
The community of runners we have in the club is so amazing and encouraging. I’m constantly inspired by everyone working hard to meet their goals and grow as runners. Seeing people in the group PR or get a BQ just lights a fire under me that keeps me wanting to get faster and improve. I do not think I would be motivated to wake up on Saturday mornings without the group keeping me accountable.

What’s the most important lesson running has taught you?
Relax and be patient. Early on I would be so fixated on running faster and faster. My upper body, shoulder, and fists would be tense to the point I would turn red in the face. Eventually I learned relaxing my body and breath helped with my breathing and the pain of running. After that I learned that I just need to be patient and consistent with my running and I’ll see improvements in my performance.

What is your favorite route in the area?
My favorite route in the area would have to be looping around the National Mall. According to Strava I have over 170 matched runs on the National Mall. During my Mall runs I enjoy people watching and listening to all the tourists from different countries visiting the city. There’s always something interesting on the Mall to keep my mind occupied.

What race day traditions do you have?
The night before a race I like to buy a pair of socks or set aside a fresh unused pair of socks for the morning. I then set at least three different alarm clocks because I’m paranoid and have nightmares of missing the start of the race. Everything else I keep routine with every Saturday morning runs.

What’s your proudest running moment?
My proudest running moment is just completing my first race in 2008. It was a struggle to start running and I had always hated it. However, signing up and finishing the GW Parkway Classic made me realize that I can run, and running isn’t such a horrible thing. I didn’t really know how to prepare for the ten-mile race, so I think I just ran for 30 minutes every other day for a few weeks on the treadmill at work.

What’s your life like outside of running?
Outside of running I try to keep my life as routine as possible to calm the nerves. Most of my day is spent working at the American Red Cross during the day. Afterwards I like to come home and catch up on shows, books, movies, etc. Signing up for marathons outside the DC area also allows me to visit some interesting cities. I also try to leave the country at least once every other year. I’d like to get more swimming and riding done but there are only so many hours in the day and running has been the focus lately.

What is one thing you wouldn’t run without?
The one thing I try to run with during every run is a positive attitude. It’s not always easy to stay positive especially at 7:00AM in the summer for a 23-mile run. Still I try to run with a smile resulting in some gnarly race photos.