By STEVE CHOICE
Pima Community College cross-country runner Nikki Regalado has developed a love affair with running. Luckily for her, she can get out and enjoy it whenever she wants.
“I just love running, and I do it no matter what” she said. “Whether it’s hot, cold, rainy, sunny, whatever. I always want to be out there.
“I actually do hate wind, though, but that’s probably because I’m from Vail.”
So how did the good-natured and outgoing freshman discover her love?
“I started getting into sports when I was about 12,” she said. “I was probably a little bit of a lazy kid, but I started playing soccer because my parents told me to go out and do something.
“What I started to notice was that I really looked forward to the conditioning drills, even though everyone else hated it. People started telling me I should try track and cross-country in high school, so I gave it a shot.”
The 4.0 student has been wearing out running shoes ever since. She especially loves the freedom to explore nature that comes with being a long-distance runner in Arizona.
“I always like to get out in the desert when I can,” Regalado said. “It’s really beautiful out there. Unfortunately, I’ve had some ankle problems recently, so I need to kind of get away from trails for a little bit.
“It’s kind of a bummer, because they’re so fun.”
Uneven terrain isn’t the only thing Regalado encounters out in the sagebrush.
“We ran into three rattlesnakes on the trails this season,” said the Aztecs’ number-two runner. “We just stopped and went around them, and kept on going. They’re usually pretty calm as long as you’re not messing with them.”
Snakes aren’t the only wildlife fun that Arizona offers, though.
“In Vail, I ran into coyotes more. That can be a little scary,” she said with a characteristic laugh.
So what’s the most frightening animal Regalado deals with out on her runs?
“Cows. I’m more scared of cattle than I am of coyotes,” she said.
More than anything, Regalado puts in a lot of mileage with animals of the two-legged variety. That’s perfect for her, since she shares a strong sense of kinship with her fellow runners.
“You need good team unity to run well,” she said. “I just want to feed off everyone else’s energy in practice.
“You can’t try to be dominant more than the others, because that negative energy will spread to everyone else, and then people don’t perform well.”
Though practice is about everyone building their teammates up, Regalado has a few ideas to get herself to the head of the pack on race day, too.
“I always think it’s better to progress from the back,” she said. “Because when you’re behind a runner, it makes them tired. It’s draining because they feel you behind them, feeding on their energy.
“When I see a runner ahead of me, I think they can help me go faster.”
Not only is Regalado keeping her eyes on the next competitor ahead of her, but she can see miles into her future as well.
“I want to continue running forever,” she said of her love. “Hopefully on the day I die, I got to run earlier that day.”