Running is much more than a sport to Liz Rock, co-founder of the Bra Run and the women’s running crew, TrailblazHers. Its impact on her goes far beyond the physical benefits. As Liz says, “Running has been such a huge pillar in my life that it’s legit changed who I am.”
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Liz started running after her grandmother passed away. She had suffered from health conditions that Liz believes could have been prevented by a healthier lifestyle, and, she says, “I feel like it took her passing away for me to kind of wake up and start taking my fitness journey seriously. But I also go further, and I think entering the running community has been a big epiphany for me.”
She decided to enter a sprint triathlon, where “you have to run, you have to swim, you have to cycle. And I just remember, of all of those three things, I’m like, ‘I can’t run; I don’t know how to run.’ Like, ‘I can’t do it.’ So I did a couch to 5K and ever since that moment, fully deciding to give it my all in this sprint triathlon and getting into running, I feel like my life has forever changed.”
The end goal of the couch to 5K program is to be able to run 3 miles in under 30 minutes. Liz wasn’t fast enough to do it, but she wasn’t discouraged; she was motivated. “I just remember at the end of that program, I was like, ‘I need to keep on going.’ It was just kind of this hunger inside of me that I was like, ‘Well, it’s okay. I can’t get to three miles in 30 minutes, but I could still go far.’ I went from not running at all to running 30 minutes and now doing the sprint triathlon. I wonder what else my body could do.’”
She found out that her body could run marathons, and she’s done four of the six world majors. But as much as she appreciates her physical abilities, the mental aspect is even more important to her. “For me, when it comes to running, it’s really mental. Yes, your body has taken you this far and like, ‘Thank you, body.’ But, wow, my mind really just did that. I mentally was able to push myself to complete however much mileage it is, whether it’s three miles, whether it’s 26.2 miles. And I feel like there’s so much synergy between training and running and just life in general. You just kind of want to keep on pushing your mind.
When it comes to running or endurance sports, I like to f*** with myself a little bit with my mindset because one side of my mind is like, ‘What am I doing? What are you doing? Are you stupid? Stop; stop.’ And the other side is like, ‘You’ve got this; keep on going; it’s only another mile.’ So it’s kind of like you’re battling yourself internally and then it’s kind of like, ‘I wonder who’s gonna win at the end of the day? Which side of my brain is gonna win?’ And of course, you want the ‘win’ side of your brain that’s cheering yourself on and wanting you to accomplish whatever goal it is, you want that side to win.”
Liz’s motto is that movement is power, and that it’s not about being perfect, it’s about pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone. That doesn’t have to mean running a marathon. She’s currently struggling with running herself, and observes, “For me, out of my comfort zone right now is leaving my house and going for a walk. That’s what I mean by pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. It doesn’t have to be this grand thing. It could literally just be putting on your sneakers and getting your keys and going into your car. If that is all that you got today and that is past your comfort zone, then so be it.”
Getting out of her comfort zone led to Liz co-founding the Bra Run in 2018. “It was just me going off on a run and being insecure about my body and taking off my shirt. It was in June; it was hot and I’m just like, ‘Take off your shirt. You’re about to pass out; come on.’ And you know, I ran, I did my miles, but I ran home, never taking off my shirt. And that’s honestly how the Bra Run came to life.”
Liz and her friend Frances Ramirez organized the first Bra Run three weeks later, and 150 women showed up to participate. It went on to become an annual event, and led to the creation of the TrailblazHers Run Co. Women would reach out to Liz and Frances, asking what else they were doing throughout the year, and in 2020, they “took the plunge” and created TrailblazHers. It’s a run crew, but with a broader outlook.
“We like to take a holistic approach to how we deal with our community. We don’t only care about the miles that you’re running, we care about you as a person, as a human being, as a woman. We care about your mental health, spiritual health, your emotional health. And that’s why we’ll usually pair up our runs and walks with some sort of feel-good activity or self-care activity. One of our activations that we do a lot is called ‘Self-Care Sunday, and that’s basically what it is. We’ll do a run, we’ll do a workshop afterwards on some sort of topic that touches mental health; we’ll do meditation; we’ll do yoga class, again, any self-care or feel- good activity.”
Through TrailblazHers, Liz wants to give to others what running gives to her. “I feel like my leadership skills are strengthened now because of running. Like, I hate public speaking; I hate doing stuff like this, by the way. But it’s pushed me outside of my comfort zone to do some amazing things; I’ve changed my career because of running.”
A TrailblazHers member told her that because of the run crew and Liz’s leadership, she’d gotten the confidence to go back to school. “This has nothing to do with running,” Liz says. “It’s life-changing. I feel like we’re helping people believe in themselves, you know what I mean? And giving that space for support and for you to be yourself. I just want women to have each other’s backs. I envision a world where we’re fighting the fight together. It doesn’t have to be this grand thing, but just holding space for each other. It doesn’t have to be so serious; it could really be that simple, just holding space for each other.
Let’s continue to show up and support each other. I think that’s very important. Let’s continue to collaborate. Like TrailblazHers, one of our pillars is collaboration. It’s not about competition; it’s just about really creating these spaces. To me, the more authentic safe spaces that show up, the better; it has nothing to do with competition. If we’re talking about accessibility, if we’re talking about creating these spaces, especially for people of color, someone needs to create them, right? So it’s like, let’s get out of our own way and let’s do the damn thing.”
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“Thank you” to Liz! We look forward to hearing your thoughts on the show.