We were thrilled to introduce the recipients to our 2024 Everyone Runs Fund this past week: Mauricio Zuniga, Candace Gale, and Mensah Bey.

Our Everyone Runs Fund program helps underrepresented runners achieve their run goals by providing financial and in-kind assistance. This is our second year doing this program and — with thanks to our sponsor Hoka — we were able to award stipends to three runners this year (in our inaugural year, we awarded two stipends).

This week, we’re shining lights on our recipients: what got them into running, what race they chose to run for this program, and what keeps them motivated to move. First up is Mauricio Zuniga.

RPL: What event are you doing?

Mauricio: I am embarking on an exciting journey to participate in the prestigious Pikes Peak Marathon this year. This marathon, known for its breathtaking ‘rocky’ scenery and grueling ascent in the Colorado mountains, presents the ultimate test of endurance and determination for many athletes and tourists. The race is in September 2024.

RPL: Why did you choose this event?  

Mauricio: Aside from the learning curve of being on trails, I have never done an outdoor activity like this outside of Northern California, let alone a different state. Some of my current favorite athletes and running bloggers have talked about this historical landmark for athletes and tourists. For years, I have seen one my favorite Colorado bloggers say on his YouTube channel, “Seek Beauty, Work Hard, and Love Each Other.” Now I may actually see him out there! There is something about Colorado’s mountains that recently sparked my curiosity and interest. This will definitely be my biggest and most exciting challenge yet.

RPL: How did you get into running?

Mauricio: Ironically, I grew up playing soccer my whole life and hated running. Days into the 2020 pandemic, all teams sports and facilities were shut down and I felt the urge to find an activity to heal from the physical, mental, and spiritual damage that my community was dealing with regarding their health and well-being.

I began running in predominantly white neighborhoods in the Bay Area and felt so out of place. My body felt incredibly anxious to run fast and get to the next place as soon as possible. My heart rate, mind, and legs never knew what it was like to jog at comfortable pace. In 2022, I joined a local running club — Oakland Track Club — and so many friendly people invited me on different types of running activities. They were inspiring enough to help me take on my first half marathon. I finally felt what it was like to be patient and relax during an activity. More and more, I began to find several fitness and wellness communities that made it incredibly fun to help and support any member who was new to the sport. It’s so rewarding to be there for others and break access barriers along the way.

I’ve come to appreciate the profound impact outdoor spaces have on my overall well-being. An establishment of weekly running events by the Oakland Track Club, where Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) gather for runs followed by shared meals, has illuminated the potential for community-building and storytelling within outdoor activities. By celebrating the diverse backgrounds of participants, we not only motivate each other but share resources to facilitate our engagement with the outdoors and local parks, regardless of whether we reach the finish line.

I aspire to become an advocate for men’s mental health in non-competitive sports.

We can’t wait to follow Mauricio’s on his journey toward Pikes Peak Marathon. If you’re interested in learning more about our Everyone Runs Fund, you can see that page here. We’ll be updating that site soon with more information about the applications to our 2025 ERF Program.