Berenice Gandonou

Friday, August 12, 2016

On who you are…

Berenice, 31 IT consultant. I was born and raised in Cotonou (Benin Republic) and I moved to Paris at 17 for my studies. As far as I can remember I’ve always been passionate about sports (football and running) I am one of those supporters who will shed a tear( maybe more than one) when their team loses.

I love sports for all the emotions and the gratification it brings. Until recently football was the sport that procured me the greatest emotions ... then I discovered the emotional whirl of running (training, races, accomplishment, doubts ...).

On running…

I got into running on a whim during summer 2012, I would work out at the gym three or four times a week. Being the African that I am, I am most inspired when the sun is shining so on a beautiful sunny day I put my trainers on and just went into the nearest park and I ran.

For almost two years I ran only in summer (2/3 months) alone or with my sister without knowing my pace. Running like everybody who’s done it can tell you, gives you freedom and you can shed all the stress, negativity of your life and on top of that the pride I feel at the end of each run is amazing.

My only concern at the beginning was to run longer, it kind of became my “summer sport”, I was learning to enjoy the sensations and to push myself.

After a while I felt like I needed to focus my efforts and be more organized. Encouraged by my sister (whom I cannot thank enough) I registered on Instagram. I discovered then a true community of runners, many running clubs including Nike Running Club Paris (NRC Paris). I ran for the first time with the NRC in October 2015. There was a true progress in my performance and it allowed me to experience the team support of a club. Running is still a time for me to reflect on myself so I make sure to run on my own every week in addition to the NRC.

I was forced to stop from November 2015 to February 2016 due to a shin injury.

I try to run 3 times in a week.

On your First Run...

I ran for the first of my life during summer of 2012. I do not know how many kilometers or minutes. All I remember is that I was very excited to start something new. I certainly remember losing all my doubts and questions after the first fifteen minutes (am I actually doing this? Maybe I need to start running on the treadmill before venturing outside; what if I find out I’m not a runner after all? Should I walk for a while before I start running? What about my trainers, are they suitable for running? What if my ass jiggles too much? Should I get tighter leggings?).

I have no recollection of the harshness of that first run just the exhilaration and pride at the end.

But then I remember the second run: it was hard, very hard.

On Street culture…

After more than a decade living in Paris, I have become accustomed to beautiful sightings. When I run alone I run in parks where it is most quiet and peaceful. With the NRC we run in the streets all over Paris and that’s quite stimulating because I had never experienced Paris beauty at a fast pace. Running in the streets of Paris at night is definetly a beautiful experience. 

On running culture…

The running community is tight, whether we know each other for a minute or years we support and motivate one another. Running is perhaps the most individual yet very team oriented sports team with an exemplary mentality: strength, courage and pride.
On gadgets…

I work every day surrounded by screens so when I get the opportunity to go for a run I like to keep things as simple as possible with just my iPhone for the music and an app to track my efforts.
On injury…

I have a hard time accepting this but injuries are and will be part of my runner life. I suffered from a shin injury last year and was only able to lace up my sneakers late February 2016 after more than two months of no sport at all. During that time, I truly understood what running meant to my life: my mental health and my body. I took that time off to scout the internet for interesting deals on sneakers and running outfits because sometimes a girl just gotta find solace in shopping…

It was very hard for me to stop myself from going for a run at least even a walk.
That injury is healed now but I am still a little afraid each time of getting hurt again. What I need to do now is get over that fear and focus on enjoying my runs.

More recently I attended my first official race of the year, freshly back from my injury I ended up very disappointed, my goal was to run 10 Kilometers under 1 hour but I finished in 1h08 min and tears in my eyes. I had the time since then to put things into perspective.

On achievements…

Since I have started running my major achievements so far :

- I have been able to stick to my training even during winter

- Ran 4 official races this year I’ve bettered my time and my speed

On future goals…

« Wisdom is to have dreams big enough not to lose sight when we pursue them » Oscar Wild

Every time I train, I want to be better, I want to be proud of my achievements and I want to keep the fun, always keep the fun. Running should remain a pleasurable activity and not a dreadful moment.

I see myself:
  •  Improving my time at 10km in the next two months
  • Run the next 20k official race
  • Help my sister this summer run 5k under 35’
  • Train for a semi-marathon by mid-2017
  • Run with the NRC in 5 different European cities by the end of 2017
  • Buy myself as many trainers as possible to match the colors of the rainbow ;) 
On your social media…

Getting on Instagram has been a major shift for my running, seeing other runners share their stories, struggles, doubts. It’s also a place for me to express my up and downs in a fun way. I don’t take it too seriously, like I said it’s important to keep the fun. There is a mutually motivating spirit that I find on both Instagram and Facebook.

The cool thing is that every runner can find him or herself in the story of another at some point.

On Pink…

I think the picture is self-explanatory :). It must be the influence of the African fabrics I grew up wearing and still wears but I love vivid colors and to put it harshly I like feeling girly while sweating and pink is definitely the color for that

On Pain…

I have a love/hate relationship with pain. From my injury I learned that it’s inevitable and when it comes I have to be patient with my body and listen to it when it tells me to stop. From training I came to appreciate that feeling when you “hurt good” as masochist that it may sound it does feel good when at the end of a running session my muscles ache and yet I feel so ecstatic and full of energy.

On women’s running…

Running is an empowering activity and every young or older women needs to find within the necessary strength to overcome all those obstacles our society (modern or traditional) throw their way. Running is about pushing yourself tapping into that undisclosed well of strength inside dig deeper and amaze yourself.

I have met incredible passionate women at different races and throught running clubs, we support and motivate each other. So of course women should run or at least giveit a try.

On the Past you…

Dear Past Bérénice, please get those trainers on and “Run Bérénice! Run!” 

When I die…

I wouldn’t know anything anymore so I don’t think about it for now.


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