The Boston-based women’s running group chose the Malden River Loop to host their weekly run dedicated to trailblazing women. (Photo by Frances Ramirez)
By Saliha Bayrak, Amanda Hurley and Catherine Riordan
A group of trailblazing women, clad in running gear and masks, were out for a run at the Malden River Loop on Sunday morning, March 7. The group, TrailblazHers Run Co, dedicated their weekly 5k run to Malden track & field star Louise Stokes, one of the first African-American women to qualify for an Olympic team.
TrailblazHers is a Boston-based women’s running group that was founded in October of 2020. The group’s members are fervently dedicated to unifying and uplifting each other while being powered by its mission to celebrate and empower women of all shapes, colors, and backgrounds.
The group originally emerged from an event known as the “Bra Run,” a tradition that continued for three years before the co-founders Elizabeth Rock, Abeo Powder, and Frances Ramirez, realized that there were many other women who were also looking for a community of runners.
Rock describes the organization as “A chance to come together as sisters, and uplift, and push each other past our comfort zones.”
“We want to create a diverse, welcoming and supportive environment tailored to women, especially women of color/minority women and motivate them on whatever end of the spectrum they may be on their running journey,” said Rock in an email. “Not only do we value the physical wellbeing of our women. We also value the mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.”
Participants of the run, which was an edition of a monthly tradition led by the group known as “Self-care Sunday,” experienced firsthand the motivational spirit that is the driving force behind the group.
Yesenia Diaz, one of the run participants, was happy to find an “amazing group of women who are so beautiful and uplifting.”
“I’m not a big runner but there was a community of ladies like this that helped inspire and motivate me, so that brought me here,” said Melissa Le, another runner before participating in the event. “I’m really excited.”
The participating runners were greeted with uplifting music and cheerful welcomes before getting together to warm-up. The participants then shared their own “untold fact,” which was followed by Powder briefly telling the untold story of Louise Stokes.
The Malden River Loop is dedicated to Stokes, thus the group’s decision to choose it as their location to highlight Stokes and other pioneering women alike. Powder told the crowd that it was a “very intentional run” and described Stokes as a “trailblazer” who was being honored on that day.
Despite qualifying, Louise Stokes never got to run at the Olympics. Stokes was born in 1913 and was a record-breaking sprinter on Malden High School’s track & field team for years before qualifying for the 1932 Olympic team. However, she was replaced by a white runner at the Olympic race. Stokes continued to devote herself to the sport and led a successful career in both track & field and bowling, going on to form the Colored Women’s bowling league in 1941.
Before finding out about the Malden river loop, Powder said the group had actually never heard of Stokes. Her story came to their attention from an article published in Neighborhood View by Amanda Hurley, titled Malden River Loop Dedication: The Story of Louise Stokes. This inspired the group to focus on Stokes along with other women whose stories have not received much attention or acknowledgment throughout history.
“For International Women’s Day and Women’s History month, we want to truly uplift and unite and highlight stories of women and their experiences, especially untold stories,” said Powder. “We wanted today to highlight stories of trailblazers who came before us and trailblazers of our community.”
Throughout the route, signs with images and information about other trailblazing women with underrecognized stories were also posted. One of the signs was dedicated to Patsy Mink, an attorney who became the first woman of color to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as the first Asian-American woman to serve in the U.S. Congress.
The TrailblazHers continued their pursuit in highlighting attention-deserving women with another event on March 13, 2021. The event, titled “We Ride for Her” is in collaboration with the organization Women on Wheels and is dedicated to Breonna Taylor, who was shot and killed by police in her apartment last year. The page for the event reads “Our cycling and our solidarity is an extension of our commitment to not letting our stories and tragedies being dismissed and forgotten.”
Learn more about the TrailblazHers in the Boston Globe’s A Beautiful Resistance series featuring co-founder Liz Rock.
Louise would be Stoked to learn of these female runners honoring her by following her passion. Thank you for coming to Malden. Next , how about a bi-marathon with a paddle!
Ooh that would be fun!