HOUSTON - Starla Garcia credits a difficult time in her life for her quest to help others, especially fellow Latino athletes, live healthier and believe in themselves.
Last month, the 30-year-old finished the Houston marathon in 2:43:56. She comfortably met the 2:45 qualifying time for the 2020 Olympic trials.
"It blows my mind away, to be honest. I’m just so happy with the time!" Starla said with a big smile.
However, the road to get here has been a bumpy one for the former University of Houston athlete. She says because there were so few Latina runners there, she struggled with imposter syndrome and body comparison.
"I was from the Rio Grande Valley and I never had to deal with that when I was younger because everybody else was like me," she added.
Starla says the constant body comparison led her struggle with over-restrictive dieting for a few years and, eventually, bulimia and anorexia for about 3 years.
After college, Starla says she only ran a handful for races.
"When I was in graduate school, that helped me a lot and understand a lot of the psychology – Latino feeding practices, body image and things like that," she said.
She’s now a registered dietician with Advice for Eating with a strong following on her blog and social media accounts.
"In my profession, there’s very few Latinas or women of color," Starla explained. "So, I wanted to also provide assistance to Latino athletes, or even Latino residents in the Houston area."
She hopes her story can inspire others to believe in their abilities and know that if you work hard and put in the time even the Olympics can be possible.
"That is my strength now, you know, having all of those things happen to me. And, even though that could be seen as a burden, it’s a huge privilege and an honor to represent an entire culture," Starla concluded.
The Olympic trials are in Atlanta on February 29th. We know she will make Houston proud.