Why more Latinos are becoming runnersIt’s 5 am and runners from across the globe are lacing up to partake in the largest Marathon in the world. What feels like years of training under their belt, the pressure of running the most televised race is upon them. Through NYC’s 5 borers, runners set out to complete 26.2 grueling miles spanning from Staten Island to Manhattan’s Central Park.
Although the global phenomenon of running has been around for quite some time, the chance to skip out on high fitness club fees and join free run groups seems to be taking shape. It’s estimated that each year, on average over 500,000 runners finish one of the 800+ marathons in the United States and that doesn’t even account for the 10s of thousands of smaller races all over the country. Amongst these runners are an emerging group of Latinos that have set out to mark their place. In a sport dominated primarily by whites, latinos have often times been neglected when it comes to marketing, yet they are by far the fastest growing population in the United States. It is estimated that nearly one in three children will be Latino by 2030.
In a culture where 77% of adults and 39% of children 2-19 are Obese/Overweight it’s not surprising that more health companies are starting to focus their attention towards Latinos. According to a recent study by StateofAbeisity.org, Latinos rank as one of the least active groups in America. The reasons behind the statistics can be staggering. Many of the factors that contribute are as followed:
Higher poverty rates
Limited access to safer places to be physically active
Inequities in access and quality to healthcare
Higher rates of hunger and food insecurity
Limited access to healthier food options
Language barrier (Less access to health education)
One of the ways Latinos are bridging the gap between health and fitness is through local groups such as Latinos Run. Founded in 2015 by Maria Solis Belizaire, Latinos Run helps address these disparities with a comprehensive approach through fitness geared towards adults and children. Their goal is to combat health related issues such as heart disease, high blood pressure and obesity. In addition to addressing these disparities through fitness, they are also partnering with health and food companies to highlight better alternatives to diet and exercise. “When I was 20 I lost my mother to cancer, a few years later I lost my childhood friend, both extremely overweight. I made a promise to myself to one day do something about it. I wanted to create positive change for my community that they would be proud of. I kept thinking about the lack of Latino based clubs and the more I read up on the statistics, I was even more determined to contribute to their well-being. I decided to created an international fitness club that would help the Latino community get active. We started taking steps to facilitate that, from free weekly runs, educational fitness mixers, our annual Hispanic Heritage Global race, and most recently having our runners complete the NYC Marathon. I wanted to show others that latinos too have a place in this sport.”
Currently, Latinos Run host free group runs NYC and DC for runners of all levels including walkers and elite athletes. They are expanding quickly across the country with pop up runs and groups forming in cities like Los Angeles and Philadelphia. “The unique thing about this movement is that we are connecting with a community on a large scale. From our inception, we started growing fast. Our runners from Latin America were connecting with our runners from the states thanks in part due to social media. We also make sure our runs are fun and inviting. Doesn’t matter if you are a walker or an elite runner, we cater to everyone and live by the motto, no runner left behind.”
In addition to weekly group runs, pop up runs and blog post, Latinos Run in partnership with Mobile App Depot will be launching their own app soon to help runners find local clubs in their cities as well as connect runners to each other. “We know how fast the Latino population is growing, and we also know there is power in numbers. We can’t just sit back and hope for change, we have to create it. We have to do our part.”