Welcome to Run in My Shoes, a monthly series showcasing the diversity and different stories of the members of our running family. A short profile on this website complements the AMR Friday Podcast, which features the profiled runner as a guest.
I’m Adalgisa “Lisa” Rivera: and I identify as an Afro-Latina from the New York City concrete jungle. My parents and family are from the Dominican Republic and I am a first generation Dominican American. My parents immigrated to the U.S. in the 1970s.
Running origin story: My maternal cousin, one of the original captains of HarlemRun, tried for over a year to get me to come to a workout.
On a hot July day in 2015, when I was going through a pivotal point in my life and started to shift my eating, movement, and mindset. I came for my first ‘workout’. It turned out to be speedwork (400s around Marcus Garvey Park).
Even though I was angry at her at first, by the end, I was so grateful; I felt amazing having been seen, heard, and even understood. I loved seeing others like me and loved that some other friends came out to join me.
Six years later: My reason for running continues to evolve as I evolve as a human being. Today, running is part of my therapy, running is fun, running is challenging, running exposes me to face so many fears and confront things truly uniquely as myself.
TransRockies Training in NYC: It was very difficult and scary for me for various reasons.
Logistically, I planned out my long runs/hikes on All Trails and researched how to get there via public transportation. I had to redo my monthly budgets to account for the cost of food, cabs, and Metro North.
I did the majority of my training runs alone in the woods/trails throughout New York State and some NJ trails. Often, I was scared as a woman and a woman of color at that. What would happen, who would come to my rescue, and would anyone even find me or care?
During one run on the trails in Van Cortlandt Park, it got darker than I planned and my light was out. I called my girlfriend who stayed on the phone with me for almost 2 hours just listening to me huffing and puffing. I told her to have a pen and paper ready to write down anything I screamed like tattoo, skin tone, hair, etc. It is sad because I shouldn’t have to think about these things.
The solo miles: Despite how much I love running with others, I did a lot of my training runs alone because I wanted to be mentally prepared to be out there for hours by myself. I didn’t know exactly what to expect but I am a back of the pack concrete runner and just thought that would translate similarly into trail running. I wanted to be as prepared as possible.
The lovely underside of urban runs: I discovered so much beauty in New York. I learned so much about my willpower and my WHYs and the power that I possess in just being me. I fell in love even more with the outdoors! I couldn’t wait to be out in the woods alone, just listening to the wind and birds like woodpeckers, or seeing bunnies or chipmunks or deer. I found myself at peace, and the training was so therapeutic. I loved my journey to race day.
“I never did this alone.”: So many people helped me along the way, it was a true team effort. I had an amazing volunteer coach, plenty of gear donations (GU was a huge supporter of mine), and friends who showed up to answer any question and help me train. Once I found out in late May that I was doing TransRockies, immediately I began to share with people and ask for support. Everybody was willing and excited to help me.
As a loud WOC from sea level: I was worried not just about running and representing sponsors and my family HarlemRun correctly, but also about addressing things in a way that would allow for more people of color to be welcomed! I prepared ahead of time with my therapy sessions and when I showed up …I showed up just as authentically ME.
Walking into the expo: I felt scared, worried, and anxious. I thought I was walking yet again into a space where there weren’t going to be people like me. I think there were about 15 % people of color. Seeing them just made me feel better. I went up to one athlete—having never met her—and instantly began talking to her because she looked like me. I felt some sense of peace and more relaxed after that.
Representation matters: People are more likely to try things or ask questions when they feel they are represented. What does that mean? If I see someone that not only looks like me but comes from a similar background or community, I most likely will gravitate to them and be more willing to be open, honest, and engaged in genuine conversation. I will also be more open to believing what is being shared as I would hope they understand the roles that power, class, and privilege plays in these worlds.
A wet, cold surprise: I went out to Colorado in June to train, and hiked Hope Pass to Twin Lake, Stage 2 of TRR. I finished it in 7 hours and 30 mins. (This made me feel amazing because it definitely beat the 9-hour cut off.)
During the race leg, it was pouring rain, windy and cold. I couldn’t feel my fingers. The medics had to put my gloves on. I was scared about going into hypothermia. I just kept running and sliding on the mud down the hills. My goal was to get done and out.
Long story short, I finished in 6 hours and 30 mins. Beat my time by an hour.
Going to the birds: An athlete named Florida Joe gave me a small flamingo to put on my hydration pack before Day 1 and said regardless of what happens out there you will never be alone with the flamingo. Funny thing is, I always touched the flamingo when I was alone and smiled.
A different kind of fuel: One of my biggest cultural and family values is courtesy and hospitality. In the city, I grew up seeing my mother passing meals in the hallways of the apartment buildings.
I have taken this mentality to HarlemRun. I love pacing the Run/Walkers and seeing their thirst to want to run and being able to support, cheer, and encourage them, while providing a safe space and grace as a pacer and a woman of color. In my own way, I am fueling them.
To be honest: I think the running world has a lot of work to do to be inclusive. More conversations need to be held with open minded adults that are willing to listen, apply and become more self-aware and do the work.
Recently I was listening to a podcast and one of the people being interviewed talked about their pronouns: they and them. They talked about how people saw them and would automatically cheer things like, “You are killing it, girl!” Since listening to that interview, I decided I needed to be more proactive. I recently was cheering at a race and I made it a point to try harder to cheer without using gender identifying terms and even found myself telling someone else cheering to try to avoid using genders when cheering and explained why.
There are so many areas to talk about in the running community—how trans athletes are treated, differences in prize money, etc.— and we need to continue to have these conversations, be honest about what is happening and continue to spread the word in hopes of having an impact.