Olympic Runner Gives Back to her Community

Growing up, Brenda Martinez couldn’t afford running shoes. Today, the 28-year-old runner is headed to the Olympics, competing with the U.S. team in the women’s 1500 meter race.

Martinez grew up in Rancho Cucamonga, 37 miles east of Downtown Los Angeles, and her parents each worked two jobs to support her and her siblings. Her mom’s friend suggested putting Martinez in a track club at the age of 5, and her coaches soon discovered she had a knack for long-distance running.

After a successful college running career at UC Riverside, two high-profile running teams rejected Martinez. But Martinez overcame this setback and eventually a New Balance sponsorship led her to meet Joe Vigil, a legendary coach who believed in Martinez and offered to coach her. During the 2016 Olympic trials held this July, Martinez qualified for the 1500m race by a fraction of a second.

For the past four years, Martinez has hosted a free summer camp in her hometown for a dozen female high school runners, and New Balance provides each camper with workout clothes and three pairs of shoes. The camp includes daily runs and clinics about confidence, healthy living and positive thinking.

“The shoes I wore to school were the same shoes I wore to practice. My father would always try to find running shoes on the clearance rack. I’m donating back to the sport that gave me a fighting chance in the world.”

I know I’ll be cheering for Martinez when she first runs on August 12, and I’m glad to see such a powerful Latina role model on the U.S. Olympic team. ¡Vamos Brenda!

Read more about Martinez’ inspirational story here.

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Brenda Benitez

Brenda Benitez

Brenda Benitez is the daughter of Mexican immigrants and grew up in Chicago, IL with her 4 brothers and sisters. She recently graduated from Pomona College in Claremont, CA, where she studied Public Policy with a concentration in Psychology. She is passionate about education and immigration reform. Thanks to scholarships for both high school and college, Brenda had the opportunity to attend high performing private schools, and her interest in education is born of the realization that too few low-income students have access to this type of education. Furthermore, her own family’s struggle with the immigration system inspired her to be active in the immigration reform movement since a young age. Brenda is currently an intern at Education Post.

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