Building Health and Community, One Step at a Time
C.C. Téllez has a passion for running. She only got started a few years ago, but it’s clear from the way she talks about the sport, and from the time and energy she puts into it, just how much it means to her.
Like a lot of runners, Téllez is also passionate about sharing the sport with others – which is how Lez Run Running Club came about.
The club was founded in November 2013, “by lesbian runners for lesbian runners and all members of the LGBTQ community and their friends and family,” as their website says. Its aim is to provide LGBTQ athletes (both newbies and vets) a safe, supportive and healthy outlet via running. Members of Lez Run also participate in local, out of state and out of the country races to represent the community and show off their skills.
This Saturday, August 13, a group of Lez Runners will compete in the 2nd annual Philly Mayor's Cup run in Fairmount Park, and they've chosen to fundraise for Mazzoni Center as part of their efforts. This event brings runners from every Philadelphia community – fast runners and slow runners, trail runners and road runners, ultra-runners and 5K specialists, together to represent the “team” they call their own, and support local charities in the process.
I got in touch with Téllez this week to learn more about Lez Run and what they’re all about.
When she first got serious about running, Téllez looked into a few different clubs in Philly – and discovered an “amazing” array of options.
“Despite my positive experience with these groups,” she says, “I knew I needed something different.”
“At races I would often see runners proudly representing their clubs, their causes, themselves. I knew from a long time before this that I took pride in being a gay athlete and that it was important for me to represent my community in a positive manner.”
Taking what can be a highly individual sport and infusing it with a sense of community is part of what drives Téllez and her fellow club members.
“Running has the ability to challenge you beyond your limits,” she explains. “It will make you feel uncomfortable, out of breath, sometimes even in pain. But when you embrace the challenges, running gives you back so much more than you would have ever expected. Things that you once feared now seem doable. Things that seemed out of control are now manageable with the right plan.”
“The club was and continues to be my way of paying it forward for all that running has done for me,” says Téllez, adding that: “Providing a healthy environment for the LGBTQ community and our allies is a top priority for us.”
All of which made Mazzoni Center a natural choice for Lez Run, when it came to selecting a local charity to benefit from their Mayor’s Cup fundraising efforts.
“Mazzoni represents everything that running is about: health, support, unity - creating a safe space and taking care of our own,” she says.
The Mayor’s Cup is not the first time members of Lez Run have channeled their running into philanthropic efforts. “Our runners have done over 100 races combined – everywhere from Philadelphia to Kenya,” Téllez says. “We have contributed to many causes through races, from animal welfare to cancer research to helping build water ducts in Africa, to supporting HRC and so much more.”
As Téllez sees it, giving back is part of what inspires club members to keep going, even when the going gets tough.
“Our presence in these races lets our community as a whole know that we care! And in turn every race we prepare for gives us the chance as runners to grow, to be better and be healthier.”
Weekly group runs
For folks interested in checking out the Lez Run club, they meet every Wednesday at 2300 Market Street at 6:15 p.m. for a group run, which is typically 3 miles plus hill repeats behind the art museum, or on the art museum steps. The group also trains together for events of varying distances, from a 5k, 10k, to half/full marathons, and from time to time they run trails.
Téllez stresses that runners of all levels and abilities are welcome. “We have some runners that walk/run and others who keep a faster, steadier pace,” she says. “And when first timers show up, I run with them at their pace to show them our running path, no runner left behind!”
Their main goal is sharing the joy and benefit of the sport with LGBTQ folks and allies. “We encourage everyone to come run with us - come see how running changes you for the better!”
To donate to Mazzoni through the Lez Run Mayor’s Cup team click here.
Runners World featured Lez Run and the women behind the club in a 2015 feature story. Click here to check it out.