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Every Runner Series: Creating change through running

Picture a "runner," who do you see? Who’s represented in this space and who is not? We asked ourselves these same questions and then we listened. Listened to stories of groups that are changing the narrative of what it looks like to be a runner and inspiring others in their community. These are the stories of those creating spaces for every runner to feel represented and welcome.

 

The Running Charity

 

Running can change your life. This is the idea behind The Running Charity helping young homeless people in London and Manchester build healthier futures by embracing running.

    

 

“Our young people have so much potential and they often don’t see it in themselves,” says Alex Eagle, The Running Charity’s co-founder. 

 

The organization works with vulnerable young people to improve their health and well-being by turning running into a tool for life. Claude, a coach at The Running Charity, knows the benefits first hand. Homeless and struggling to see a way out, he joined the first ever program nine years ago. 

 

“The Running Charity made me who I am today. Everything I was doing to escape, I replaced with running.”

   

 

Through group and one-to-one sessions focusing on personal development, fitness and well-being, the young people build their confidence, achieving things they thought were impossible. 

 

Helping over 500 young people change their lives by running since 2012, The Running Charity is creating a space for young people to belong and take their lives back.

 

Fresh Air Fund

 

Playing outside among their friends, spending their youthful energy and exploring the neighborhood – sounds like the typical summer break for many children. Unfortunately, in the Bronx borough of New York City, access to the outdoors and safe recreation is not always a given. In order to ensure a safe and fun summer experience for these kids, a getaway is needed. Enter The Fresh Air Fund.

 

 

Since 1877, the Fresh Air Fund has been providing transformative summer experiences for New York City children and teenagers from underserved communities. With activities ranging from summer camps to weekly meets, the organization also encourages an active lifestyle. This Spring, On partnered with The Fresh Air Fund to bring a weekly track club to the Bronx.

  

 

The event gathers the local Bronx youth to engage in run centric exercises and games with an emphasis on building healthy lifestyle choices, the empowerment of sport, and team building. Fresh Air Fund alum and Tutoring Coordinator, Kayla Paulino, isn’t the only witness to the visible impact the track club has on the participants:

 

"Week after week we kept receiving positive feedback, saying that the kids came home happy, feeling like they got something accomplished, something done."

 

She hopes that these immediate benefits of running will entice the participants to embed the sport into their daily lives.

 

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Pansa Boyz

 

Pansa Boyz’s mission is to build an authentic community of runners that feel supported and empowered by one another. 

 

 

“There’s men out there that want to go running and they’re embarrassed. Because they don’t look like what a “runner” looks like,” says Manny “Bodega” Rodriguez, founder of the Pansa Boyz.

 

A group of four first-generation Latin American men born and raised in New York, the Pansa Boyz were brought together by their mutual desire to move and run – and to shut down the stigma that you need to look a certain type of way to be accepted as a runner.

 

“Men also feel body shaming around the way we look and the way we’re shaped. We’re just trying to put some positivity into the world for people of any shape, size, form. Just because we’re big doesn’t mean we’re unhealthy,” they explain.

   

 

“If I’m running alongside someone that looks like me, feels like me, knows what I’m going through every single day. There’s a comfort in knowing we’re gonna get this done together,” they emphasize. For this crew, it’s not about the mileage or breaking PRs, it’s about showing up for yourself every single day.

 

“Pansa Boyz are my friends,” Manny adds. “We’re all black and brown. We’re all people of color. We’re all people from New York City. Our goal for Pansa Boyz is to raise awareness for men that it’s okay to look like us. You don’t have to look a certain way. That’s the biggest message we want to get across — by just running and talking about it.”

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