Making the future more equitable

An Amsterdam decision by the International Olympic Committee to remove women from the 800-meter event after five of the competitors collapsed (there was only one fall at the finish) gravely affected the future of women’s running.

People were so offended when they saw women exerting themselves and being powerful and strong that they quickly halted all the women’s running events for decades. Over 30 years have passed since the ban was imposed. According to Akbar, its effects continue to be felt today, and they are not just restricted to runners at the top level.

In this spirit, New Balance has created Stolen Starts, a global ambassador program for women. Women were robbed of these start lines. So we selected partners for this program who can speak to different stories within our sport and who are making progress,” says Akbar. In addition to its roster of elite athletes, the brand is aiming for something different with this project. Women like Lizeth Aparicio, a runner, activist, and organizer based in Los Angeles, also have a sense of purpose in their local running communities.

“I have a physically active body. Through the vehicle of running, I can always get back up.”

Growing up in a country where her parents weren’t native speakers, Aparicio was more responsible than many her age, juggling her academics, job, and social life while also helping her parents translate and navigate life in a foreign land. Having worked full-time, lived far from campus, and traveled a lot to save money while in college had worn her out by the time she was in her junior year. It’s me who does everything, the one to go to. They were so scared of me that I didn’t want to tell them.”

Aparicio told her mother she couldn’t do it after hyperventilating the day she called her mom. She was immediately picked up and brought home by her dad, who deferred the semester without hesitation. Lizeth, her dad explained, I understand that you need your space. It’s not necessary for you to do anything. Nothing is being charged to you. There’s no job for you. Allowing her to simply be was his permission.

She laced up her running shoes and headed outside after spending a month at home. Something changed in her that made her feel as if she couldn’t stop. A 15-mile run straight was all she could manage. It was a feeling of overwhelming relief that followed. “I have a physically active body. “I will always be able to get up through running,” she remembers thinking. After that experience, she ran every day because she’s never stopped since.” As a result of that experience and the positive outlet running gave her, she’s now the kind of person she is today: optimistic, happy. Additionally, she’s trying to affect positive change in her community through running.

In June 2021, Aparicio conducted and successfully completed her second annual Run for Justice, in which she ran 30 miles (on her 30th birthday) to raise money (over $5,500) for the ACLU and to speak out for her Black friends and neighbors. She says she has privilege despite being a woman of color. My parents, who immigrated and are not even native-born Americans, have it much harder than Black people in America, and that is just plain unjust. Running can accomplish so much and what the Run for Justice represents.”

Runs are Aparicio’s way of affecting change, both personally and for her mental health, as well as in her community. That is why her participation in Stolen Starts seemed natural, adds Akbar, who hopes to inspire a wider demographic of runners in the future and reverse the damage caused by inequity in the past. However, it goes beyond that. “We want to share how women can show up in the world and all they can be.” Akbar: “We want to show all that women can be.”

Here is some information about New Balance. Sneakers are only one part of what we stand for. Passionate people are admired. Sport is elevated by us. Humans and the Earth are treated right by us. We work together to make a difference in communities around the globe. That’s it.

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