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Editor's note: Carla Flores-Ballesteros is one of five finalists for Guilford County Schools' principal of the year, which will be announced Tuesday during a Celebration of Excellence. Late in 2020, in the heart of the pandemic, she donated a kidney to John Brown, the husband of Flores-Ballesteros' friend and fellow principal Patrice Brown (you can read their story here and here). Flores-Ballesteros, who received the Superintendent's Humanitarian Award during the summer, is the subject of today's Runners profile.
Husband, Jorge (33 years); sons Andrés, Carlo and Daniel
Why I run
"I don't think I'm a runner. I'm a very slow runner. Let's put it that way. It's my sanity. It's my peace. My finding a balance between my mind, body and spirit. I love being outdoors, and that just brings me peace. That's why I run. I'm not running against anybody. I'm not running to win. I'm running to feel good and to just find some balance in my busy life."
How she got started
"We don't live far from Fleet Feet. It was close to September, October, around that time. We were driving, and I saw the sign that said 'if you want to run, we have training programs.' And I told my husband, 'That's what I want for Christmas.' Stevven Anderson was there at that time, and I love and adore Stevven. He is very inspiring. He works one-on-one with you. So I've been with him since, and now they have HPAC (High Point Athletic Club) with Brandon Hudgins. ...
"I was very fortunate also to meet the Trivium owners, Rich and Libby (Swor). They are amazing people. Inspiring. And I've done several of their races, and they've worked with me with on some projects. They're just good people in the running community."
My runner's high
"When you go to races and you see other people. 'Oh, I can do this.' Or, if I do long runs, I usually do them by myself because I'm so slow. But I like it sometimes because I get to that point where it's like (and her voice softens) I'm just at peace, I'm just in that 'ah!' moment. That would be my high; I can go all day."
On donating a kidney
The Middle Miles
What I'm doing when I'm not running
"I love to read ("Black & Buddhist," "Just Mercy"). I enjoy cooking (chipotle chicken, cakes). And the most favorite thing I love to do is travel (Hawaii, Greece, Spain)."
My running tribe
"Stevven and Brandon. Alice (Owens); we're slow and steady. Cara Arena. Debbie Allison. Josie Cothran. Mandy Wahl. ... Lisa Urbine and Whip; I love them dearly. ... Just people that inspire me. Most of them are faster than me. People that make me feel good about myself."
"Doing PM to HR (Pilot Mountain to Hanging Rock 50K). Probably the first time we did it, and my husband does not enjoy running but it was a date. We have done it three times. ... The first time, we were the last ones but we finished. The second time we dropped our time like two hours or more. The third time I finished by myself and I was really proud of myself for sticking to my guns and finishing. The last part was in the dark and I was not afraid. I did it! I was very proud of that. And the very first half marathon that I did was the Outer Banks. I cried when I crossed that finish line. I did this! It was just very fulfilling."
Where you'll find me
"I go to the track on Tuesdays because that's where we meet with HPAC. Saturdays we do road. I love trails; it's just nature. It's just my spirituality. I pray. I sing. I cry. And I just release whatever I have in my mind, especially when I'm by myself. But I just love the trails."
Key pieces of gear
"Water. Bottles of water. And my watch."
A workout I hate
"Intervals. I have to do specific seconds for hundreds or 200s or 300s and 400s. I don't like them, but I know I have to do them because they help me."
A workout I love
"Warming up. And stretching. I was really bad at not stretching, and I was pretty stiff. I had to roll; that's another thing I hate I know is good for me. But now I'm very diligent about warming up and cooling down."
On my playlist
"I have a playlist. I'm originally from Mexico. So I have a playlist of dancing music. It gives me the pattern for my steps."
What I'm streaming
"I'm addicted to 'Ted Lasso.' I love 'This Is Us'; the last season is going to be in the winter. 'Ted Lasso' is just so inspiring. I see a little bit of myself in Ted Lasso; I might be wrong. I just want to be there for people, do what I can to help others. He stays focused and tries to be there for other people and be a coach. I feel like I have to do that for what I do."
"It depends on the distance. If I'm starting early in the morning, I usually don't eat; I just make sure that I am fueled, have enough liquids. And if it's longer, I would do like a shake, a smoothie. I would put spinach, almond butter. bananas; just a little bit of everything. I put some algae in it, too."
"I'll take a shower first. I want to go out to eat somewhere. If there's a beer, I'll take the beer, of course. I like pasta. I love salads. I like healthy food. I'm not a pizza eater or a hamburger eater."
My favorite race
"I love PM to HR. It's pushing for people who have never done anything like that. I enjoy doing the 5Ks, especially when there's a purpose, you're supporting a cause. I like to do ... the ones we do at Thanksgiving, because we usually do it as a family."
"I did the Pig Pounder 5K this past April. I was very fortunate to donate a kidney in December. My recipient, my kidney brother John, had never done a race. So we said, 'Let's just do that.' So we did it together. And I was just so proud of him for doing it. It was just a very amazing experience."
Click on the video below to see Flores-Ballesteros discuss the Pig Pounder 5K:
"I'm still debating if I'm going to do PM to HR in October, which is HR to PM this time around. I don't think I'm very well-trained. But I'm gonna make a decision soon. If I don't do that, for sure John and I are going to do the Greensboro 5K (Nov. 20)."
What it takes to be an effective principal
On growing up in Mexico
"I was born and raised in Mexico City. After the '85 earthquake, we moved into San Luis Potosi, which is a little north. And then I got married and we moved to Kentucky because of my husband's job. We lived in western Kentucky for four years. We went back to Mexico, lived in Toluca. We came to North Carolina 23 years ago because of my husband's work. He used to work for Volvo Mexico.
"My parents are just wonderful. I was very spoiled. I have two siblings: an older sister and a younger brother. I was that middle child. I just feel that I've been blessed my whole life. ... My cousins, four of them, we grew up as siblings, very close-knit. If we went out for weekends, all of us would go. We'll go out, have picnics or eat out on the weekends, always with family. My grandma; we all adored her."
What I've learned about myself through running
"That I'm capable of doing things that I think I wasn't capable of. A 50K. Taking time off my slow time. I've learned that with hard work, you can really achieve the goals that you set for yourself."
Words to the wise
"Give it your all and just keep enjoying it. For me, it's the balance. But just find that joy of why you're doing what you're doing. If it's a 5K or a 50K or a 50-miler or whatever, just keep that joy within."