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Meet Sabrina De La Cruz, mom to 8-month-old Myles, 2020 Olympic Trials qualifier, runner, social worker, and founding member of Angel City Elite–a Brook’s affiliated women’s team based in Los Angeles with a mission to increase BIPOC representation in distance running. We caught up with De La Cruz as part of our Spring 2022 360 YOU program. Our focus for the second edition of this members-only program, led by TrackClubBabe, is how to unlock your potential.
Sabrina De La Cruz has been lucky to share most of the trials and tribulations of her running journey in tandem with her sister, her husband, and her found family of teammates.
De La Cruz and her twin sister Regina Lopez followed similar trajectories starting with training together in high school. They overcame eating disorders and eventually debuted at the marathon together: the 2016 Arizona Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in Phoenix. They both ran it in 2:52:02. Later that same year, Sabrina and Regina qualified for the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials at the California International Marathon (CIM) in Sacramento. Sabrina crossed the finish line in 2:41:16, and Regina at 2:42:07.
In August 2020, De La Cruz married her college sweetheart–a fellow elite runner, Andrés De La Cruz, who also works as a chiropractor and coach at California State University, Los Angeles.
Beyond her fast family, De La Cruz is also the founder of Angel City Elite, a five-person, all-Latina group with a mission to “bridge the disparity gap of BIPOC representation in the running community, raise awareness, empower, educate, and inspire.” Since its inception in March 2021, ACE has connected with a variety of high school runners in Los Angeles and Houston, encouraging them to pursue running and inspiring them with possibilities.
And with all that support behind her, De La Cruz has leaned on them all she navigates a new chapter in her running career: parenthood. Since becoming a mom in September 2021, De La Cruz has formed a new bond with running, one that’s more joyful and less rigid. Read about her postpartum journey in the conversation below.
Women’s Running: How was your pregnancy?
Sabrina De La Cruz: Pregnancy was such a roller coaster. I’ve been struggling with emetophobia, fear of vomiting. It was very hard. Two weeks after I found out I was pregnant, the fear seized me and I couldn’t even get out of bed. The idea of going to the bathroom scared me, because seeing the toilet would trigger me to want to throw up. I had to seek help from a psychologist and went through exposure therapy. It was hard to function during the first four months of pregnancy. I couldn’t keep my running routine.
By the second trimester, I got a lot better. My husband and I bought a Peloton. I was able to run 4-5 times a week on the Peloton.
By the third trimester, I got a lot bigger and could barely pick up my body. I had to stop running again. Keeping a consistent running routine during pregnancy was a lot more challenging than I first imagined.
WR: What about your postpartum recovery?
SDLC: Motherhood brings me so much joy. It was almost hard to find the motivation to run again. I used to see all these women, after having babies, they come right back. I was struggling to find my “why.” I started walking and jogging two weeks after having my son, Myles, but couldn’t get into a good rhythm.
Mental health was another challenge. I had postpartum depression and was crying all the time. Again, my psychologist helped. When I finally got to why I was depressed, I realized that it was because I had not been running. Part of my identity was lost. Three months after having Myles and getting mental health therapy, I finally started to run more consistently. The process of
coming back to running reminded me who I was again. I am a runner and a mom at the same time. Sure, sometimes one identity overtakes the other, but they’re always going to be integrated.
All the midnight feedings, diaper-changing, and juggling with my husband when we take turns to get our own runs in… have all taught me to appreciate running even more.
WR: Did anything about pregnancy, having the baby, or postpartum recovery surprise you?
SDLC: I’m only surprised that people were shocked to see me running during my second trimester. Lots of my friends and family told me I should stop running while carrying a baby inside me. I get why they were concerned, but I was also fully capable with it, and with the doctor’s blessing.
The biggest surprise is probably learning how the body changes and shifts, before, during, and after a pregnancy. Weight gain was part of it, but also my digestive system seemed to be off a bit. I was constipated a lot and had heart burns.
After having the baby, it was almost a frustration of my body not bouncing back quickly enough. I had to remind myself to stop comparing the new me with the old me and stop thinking like “I used to be able to do this.” It was not a compassionate way to talk to myself. That mindset shift to self-love was hard.
WR: What’s been your biggest support during this life change?
SDLC: My family and the community. First, my mom and sister. My mom gifted me a gym pass during last Christmas, and we have been going to the gym together. That motivated me to get back to running. My sister has been here for me. My husband, Andrés de la Cruz, always puts my running needs first. If we’re not home together, our texts usually start with, “Have you run
My teammates at Angel City Elite have also been my biggest motivation. They would keep me up to date with their race schedule. That alone is a reminder that I am a part of this incredible team where we push each other to grow. And of course, my friends, who never fail to check in on me and ask me out for a run.
WR: What are your new running goals? How has your relationship with running evolved, if at all?
SDLC: This spring, my goal is to get back in shape. I recently ran a local 5k with my teammate at ACE. It was a lot of fun getting out to race again. My focus is still on transitioning from motherhood to building up fitness slowly, at the pace that would allow me to balance my parenting duties.
In the summer, I’ll focus on building up more mileage consistently (70+ miles/week); for the fall and winter, I might race a half or a full marathon. Twin City Marathon and California International Marathon are two options.
My big goal is to qualify for the Olympic Marathon Trials again. The new standard for women is 2:37, which means it’s 5:59 pace. I have to train for a 5:55 pace in order to have room for error. It’s about 15 seconds per mile faster than my personal best. It’s daunting but I think I can do it.
My relationship with running has evolved to be more flexible. In the past, if I missed a run, I would be anxious and angry. Now I’ve made peace with the unpredictability of my new life. Once Myles is older, I’m looking forward to taking him on a stroller run.
WR: Throughout this journey, who are the mom runners you look up to?
SDLC: I look up to a variety of both elite-level and non-elite mom runners. Lauren Floris is one. She’s the head coach of men’s and women’s cross country and track teams at Pepperdine University. Elizabeth Camy-Blackwell is another one. She has 2 kids and a PhD and works full time. She’s known for getting up at 3:30am to get her run in.
It’s been incredible to follow them on Instagram and on Strava to see them still running to their full potential, working, coaching others, growing in other areas of life, all while balancing motherhood. It makes me believe I can still pursue running at the highest level.
WR: What advice do you have for other new mother runners?
SDLC: My advice for new mother runners would be to be patient. When you first return to running, go by feel and don’t worry too much about your pace. Trust that your body will eventually find that rhythm again.
Second, mix up your running with strength training. Strength not only helps you get back in shape, but also serves as a break from the monotony of running and adds variety and fun. My husband, Andrés, who is a coach and chiropractor, has given me these exercises: Kegel exercises, squats, bridges, posterior pelvic tilts, and diaphragmatic breathing. Try incorporating these exercises into your day. Hit the gym once or twice a week. You’ll start the see the body changing.
Finally, be compassionate to yourself. Early childhood of a mom’s life is a special stage that goes by very fast. It is worth celebrating every day. Yes, it is hard juggling different priorities, but enjoy all the little moments with your babies. It means being flexible with your running schedule and pace; integrating your mother and runner identities; staying focused on your goals
but trusting the process even more; and loving yourself throughout the process.