Meet the Match

A Peruvian Advocate Runs for Women

Alejandra Rodriguez-Larraín’s childhood was filled with car drives to and from sports lessons. If it wasn’t tennis, it was swimming. If it wasn’t swimming, it was golf. But, nothing made Alejandra feel the way she did when she stepped onto the track.

Inspired by her father, an attorney and marathon runner who raced in marathons in New York City and the Andres mountains, Alejandra joined and competed on the track and field team at her primary and secondary schools. She thought one day she might run next to her father in a marathon. But, there was no rush. Then, in 2011, he announced he was going to run for the last time.

“I remember I called my sister and told her I signed both of us up to surprise him,” Alejandra says. “I told her, ‘We’ve got to start training in two weeks.’ She was mad. But, it wasn’t my dad’s last marathon. He’s 64 years old now and still running.”

Since 2011, Alejandra has participated in the New York City Marathon five times, and completed half-marathons in Spain, Chile, Colombia, North Carolina, and Florida.

While working on her second bachelor’s degree in economics and finance from the Universidad de Piura (Alejandra earned a degree in business from the same university in 2008), she began helping her dad with an amateur running club he founded in 1984, Peru Runners. In 2012, as the club formed into a full-scale organization promoting running across the country, she joined  full-time as its CEO and lead on social development programs.

As the head of the organization, Alejandra grew Peru Runners to six running clubs nationwide, including two women’s and one trail running club. The organization’s membership also grew to 1,000, as it expanded to host 32 major events a year, with even more local events for runners.

But, even as Peru Runners flourished, Alejandra wanted to do more than just promote running. Her parents had made sure she was aware of social and economic injustices in society, and she wanted to make a bigger impact.

“Peru is a place where economic and gender differences are very stark,” Alejandra says. “There is a long coast with modern cities, where some girls have access to economic assets and don’t feel different from the boys. Then we have the highlands and the jungle, and poor communities even in the big cities. These are places where many girls have to fight to even get an education.”

While gender inequalities exist across Peruvian society, Alejandra is most concerned by how they affect poor and rural women. In 2014, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights urged the country’s government to tackle gender discrimination, particularly high rates of teenage pregnancy, racism, and violence.

Alejandra believes running provides a positive environment where women gain confidence to fight for their rights and improve the quality of their lives.

“In running, you will suffer,” Alejandra says. “It is like life. There will be sacrifices and obstacles along the way, but the rewards of overcoming them are much greater, and you should enjoy every step. Running builds life skills, confidence, body awareness, friendships, and creates safe environments for women to connect with each other”.

Since Alejandra became CEO of Peru Runners, women have grown to represent 45 percent of its membership. Outside of the clubs, she organizes key programs, such as Correr te Hace Libre (Running Makes You Free), aimed at empowering men and women in prison, and campaigns to spread awareness of street harassment of women who run and do other physical activities outside.

“With everything, we’re trying to promote women’s equality,” Alejandra says. “We want women to be healthy and sporty, not overweight, depressed, and feeling like they are less than men.”

Through years of hard work and success, Alejandra has cultivated strong relationships with civic and government leaders across Peru. By participating in the U.S. Department of State and espnW Global Sports Mentoring Program, she has helped maximize the organization’s current platform, while learning new management and leadership skills to take Peru Runners’ impact to the next level. Guiding her on the journey are Under Armour mentors Pamela Catlett, senior VP and general manager of women’s, and Susie McCabe, senior VP of global retail. Two senior female leaders in one of the world’s global sports brands, who possess more than 20 years of experience with prominent companies such as Ralph Lauren and Nike, Pamela and Susie provide Alejandra with key resources for working with and attracting new sponsors, as well as innovative ideas for growing Peru Runners around the country. With her mentors’ support, Alejandra is certain to change the lives of hundreds of more underserved women in communities throughout her country.

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