Several years ago I was looking for a group of runners to share in the pain of completing long runs together. During races I spotted many runners wearing NY Flyers gear, and I knew one of my Hunter College classmates had run with the Flyers in the past, so I signed up for my first NY Flyers Three Bridges Run and that’s how it all started.
Since that day I have gained a family! In all the years that I had been running I had never shared it with more than three friends. Sadly, all three of the women that I have run with consistently have moved out of NYC. The first was a childhood friend who relocated to Seattle, Washington 17 years ago, the second was a mommy friend who helped me survive the first few years of motherhood and who moved about 7 years ago, and lastly my dearest friend who was parenting teenagers at the same time as me moved almost a year ago. Since then the Flyers have helped me mourn the departure of my running buddies while creating new memories.
WHY I RUN
My “why” is simply to stay sane. When I started running two decades ago, my friend Claudia who lived just a couple of blocks away would ring my bell and say “let's go Mel.” I would begrudgingly throw on shorts and slide into my sneakers and run the streets of Woodside, Queens. In my twenties it was more for vanity than anything else but we got it done.
Fast forward to 2009 and I found myself completing 9 races with NYRR and decided I might as well volunteer and get guaranteed entry to the NYC Marathon. I ran my very first NYC Marathon in 2010 and it was magically painful.
Since then I have run nine more NYC Marathons and I had the fortune of also running the Berlin Marathon in September this year -- where I ran a personal best marathon and achieved a Boston qualifying time for the 2024 Boston Marathon. Six weeks later I ran my 10th NYC Marathon where I finished just 20 seconds behind my Berlin finish time and set a new course record for myself for NYC 😊 An important contributor to these recent racing achievements was my participation in the Flyers Marathon Training Program (MTP) -- doing speedwork alongside Flyers friends including Jennifer Coyne, and receiving the advice and support of MTP Coach Amy Sitar proved integral to my progress and made marathon training extra fun! 🥳 🎉
All these years later I still run to keep sane. As a wife, mom of three and teacher, life pulls me in a million directions every day, and running helps keep me steady. I am now looking ahead to future marathons with the end goal of one day completing the Abbott World Marathon Majors. Next is Chicago in 2023 and Boston in 2024. Then Tokyo and London remain for me to complete all six of the World Marathon Majors!
What is representation and why does representation matter? As a Colombian woman living in the Borough of Queens here in NYC -- the most diverse place in the world -- diversity has always been a reality. However, as I got older and entered certain institutions I realized there were less people that looked like me than I expected. When I started running more regularly outside of my neighborhood and in organized settings this was definitely more apparent. Then in the wake of incidents including the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbury and Breonna Tayler, the running community began to more fervently discuss representation and its importance in helping build a community that embraces and uplifts diversity.
This is around the time when some members of the Flyers started talking about starting a Diversity Inclusion and Belonging Committee. In June of 2020, the Flyers Executive Board announced that the club would:
- Examine and revise the club's Code of Conduct to express the club's anti-racist commitment, and require all members to sign and adhere to it.
- Form a Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging (DIB) Committee to explore a variety of tangible, sustainable ways to be better citizens of the running community, support Black runners and the larger Black community and be more welcoming of everyone.
In my short-lived experience with the Flyers I recognized that although welcoming, the group was in its majority white and male with white women a close second, and with relatively few Asians, Blacks and Latinos. Within the DIB Committee we discussed how we could begin working to make our organization more representative of the rest of the city.
Based on the results of the 2021 American Community Survey of the U.S. Census Bureau, the race and ethnicity makeup of NYC is as follows: White (not Hispanic or Latino) 31.9%, Hispanic or Latino (of any race) 28.9%, Black or African American 23.8%, and Asian 14.3%. Surveys such as this one highlight that we have lots of work to do -- but we are optimistic that through continued efforts we will be able to reach our goal of having a membership that is truly representative of the great city we live in!
As a component of the Flyers DIB initiatives, the club conducted a membership survey in 2021. Survey results and analyses are available at the following two links -- click HERE for the survey results and HERE for comments and analyses.
Various initiatives have emerged within the Flyers since the formation of the DIB Committee in June 2020 and a Flyers Town Hall Meeting in June 2021. The Flyers:
- Examined and revised the Flyers Code of Conduct. Click HERE to review the new Flyers Code.
- Appointed a BIPOC member to the Flyers Advisory Board. After leading the DIB Committee since its inception in 2020, I was pleased to accept the position.
- Began to seek to Increase the geographic diversity of the Flyers by conducting some runs throughout the five Boroughs, with the intention of increasing awareness of the club and its prominence in other areas of NYC.
- Commemorated Juneteenth 2021 in partnership with Harlem Run by supporting the group's 5K run/walk BBQ where Flyers served as volunteers on the course to help keep the route safe and runners hydrated.
- Sponsored its first Queens Run on August 8, 2021, and a Staten Island Run in 2022 -- a 17-mile run spearheaded and led by Bradford Goz on Sept 3, 2022, and that included participating in a nested SITRAC-sponsored 5K race!
- Promoted in December 2021, with the help of the DIB Committee, the Extend Your Run Fam event in the Bronx with other running clubs. Special thanks to the co-leaders -- Tim Decker and Bradford Goz who co-led this initiative with me.😊
- Promoted in April 2022 an annual Bronx Community College event that included a 10K, 5K run and a two mile walk to help raise money and promote health and fitness in the community. A great family event!
The DIB Committee has held monthly meetings for the past two years. We usually take a hiatus for the Summer months and return in the Fall. We meet monthly via Zoom, so if you would like to get involved -- OUR NEXT EVENT IS THE HARLEM HEROES RUN ON DECEMBER 11TH, COME JOIN US! -- you can email me directly at email@example.com