On a June afternoon in late 2012, Elaine Gonzalez Johnson, frustrated by running alone, sent a text to every woman in her phone and launched a nationwide movement.
‘I’m going to run two-and-a-half miles on Saturday at 7 AM,’ it read. ‘Will you join me?’
A month earlier, Johnson — now a 30-year-old full-time program manager in the Philadelphia school district — had stood at the starting line of her first-ever race, Philadelphia’s Broad Street Run, which touts itself as the largest 10-mile race in the country. Despite being in a crowd of over 35,000 fellow runners, she felt alone. “I didn’t see anybody who looked like me,” Johnson said. “There was such a lack of Latinas at this particular race.”
Johnson’s initial impression was not far off from the truth: despite their status as the country’s largest racial or ethnic minority, at 17.6% of the nation’s total population, Hispanics make up only a small portion of runners nationwide. In 2016, only 6 percent of overall runners surveyed identified as Hispanic, according to RunningUSA, a not-for-profit organization launched in 1999 which tracks developments in the sport through annual surveys and reports. And for women runners, the figures are even bleaker: barely 5 percent of female runners surveyed by the organization in 2014 identified as Hispanic.
Within weeks after the Broad Street Run, Johnson decided to take matters into her own hands. In June, a few days after she texted all the women she knew, six women showed up to meet her for an early morning two-and-a-half mile run at Abraham Lincoln High School in northeast Philadelphia. The group began to grow every week. And by August of that year, a chapter had sprung up in New Jersey. Latinas in Motion was born.
Almost five years later, the group boasts 4,000 members in 17 chapters across 14 states and in Puerto Rico, where Johnson’s family hails from. And Johnson has become the face of the movement, appearing on the cover of Women’s Running magazine last June.
Continue onto NBC News to read more about Latinas in Motion.