PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A Philadelphia mom who wanted some running buddies started a movement that has spread across the nation. On a crisp March morning, the sun wasn’t up yet, but a group of women outside Northeast High School were up and running around the block.
“I think waking up is the hardest part,” said Valerie Aviles.
Once there, there’s no stopping them.
“You don’t want to run in the cold, but after the workout, you feel amazing,” said Gabriella Jennings.
“If it’s anything over 40 degrees, we are out here running,” said Elaine Gonzalez Johnson. She founded the group, which she calls Latinas in Motion.
Elaine wasn’t always a runner. “I gained so much weight with the pregnancy of my daughter. I was not comfortable going to the gym. I felt super inadequate,” she said.
Elaine started running and in 2012, she ran the Broad Street Run. But she says, not a lot of runners looked like her.
“I’m sure there were Latinas there, but I felt alone,” Elaine said.
As a Philadelphian born to Puerto Rican parents, Elaine knew Latinas were at higher risk of things like obesity and diabetes. Elaine put out an open invitation on Facebook to join her on her runs. Every time, more women joined her.
“The power of social media is what really catapulted Latinas in Motion from just me to hundreds of women,” she said.
Now, Latinas in Motion has grown into a nonprofit with chapters in 10 states and Puerto Rico. There’s also an annual 5K in Philly, open to all.
Elaine said people ask, “‘I’m not Latina, can I come?’ Yes! We want everybody there.”
Even after all the success, Elaine still gets up before dawn to run with members.
Valerie said she loves how she feels “once you get here, and you are among just women that love on you and are waiting for you to get here to run.”
“It makes me feel like I can do this,” Elaine said, “and together we can do anything.”