For these women, the Running Mamis offers fitness, safety and camaraderie

Phillip Palmer Image
Sunday, March 3, 2024
Running Mamis offers fitness, safety and camaraderie for these women
What started as a small running group is now a large community of women that support each other. They're known as the Running Mamis.

BOYLE HEIGHTS, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Running can be a lonely exercise and it can also come with risks. Especially for women in the early morning hours on a lonely stretch of road, or in a neighborhood with broken street lights, or unwelcome attention from men.

Trying to stay safe in those circumstances is what led Raquel Roman and her friends to found the Running Mamis.

"If you walk alone you could be catcalled, there's so many accidents, people speeding and so I think if you see a big group it just makes a big difference," Roman explains.

Four Latina mothers from Boyle Heights didn't realize they were starting much more than a running club in 2018.

The group quickly attracted aunties and grandmothers to become more than a safe way to exercise. The Running Mamis became a community of women supporting each other because they understand each other.

"Being able to come to a group and share in a blunt manner and how we're feeling in order to be able to process that and to do it through wellness is such a big deal for us," said Jo Anna Mixpe Ley, a co-founder.

Through word of mouth and social media posts, the Running Mamis have grown from about a dozen women to almost 100 members. As a running group, they organize clinics for race training and proper equipment, but what makes them unique is the shared experiences of working mothers.

"I was, for example, breastfeeding right before a race. That's something that's not very common. Or what it is to even balance all of those things and the necessity for that, especially a space like that where I could feel safe in my own community of Boyle Heights," explained Mixpe Ley.

It doesn't take long to understand that even though running brought them together, a willingness to share and support each other is the bond that deepens every weekend. They all understand the challenges of postpartum depression or the difficulty of finding good childcare. Before a run, the group often gathers in a large circle and shares a word for that day and in many cases, it provides a release of deep emotions.

"People either share the challenges of the week, share the challenges of the month... the fears they have in coming out to run... challenges with children and so we always start, just to get everybody ready and their minds ready to get running... to let go of whatever's holding them back for that morning," said Roman.

The Running Mamis aren't a non-profit and there's no formal plan to grow the group beyond their local neighborhoods, but they could be the inspiration for another community to come together on their own and, as Roman put it, build something equally special.

"Go create a space for yourself, but it has to be what the community wants and identifies as their need."