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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Amid an alarming surge in femicides, women marathon runners will run to support victims of gender violence

In the “Kilometers of Change” (Kilómetros de Cambio) event next month, 27 women marathoners will run a relay race through 45 municipalities to raise funds for shelters for survivors of domestic violence and their children.

By The Star Staff

They are women who got tired of hearing about the atrocious femicides in Puerto Rico and that is why they will take to the streets for three days to run against gender violence.

In the “Kilometers of Change” (Kilómetros de Cambio) event, 27 women marathoners will run a relay race through 45 municipalities from May 17 to May 19 to raise funds for shelters for survivors of domestic violence and their children.

Like the 27 marathon runners, the general public can join the initiative and register, with a donation, to carry out a virtual race on social networks. Those who wish to register can do so at Donations by ATH Móvil are also welcomed in the name and to the account of Kilómetros de Cambio. Likewise, financial support is being sought from companies that contribute to the cause of ending gender violence.

“We can no longer tolerate violence destroying the lives of our women, causing immense pain to their children and families,” said Deborah Maldonado, a triathlete and marathoner who founded Kilometers of Change to support the Network of Gender Violence Shelters Network. “When we run, we move toward a tomorrow without fear. We run strongly because we take steps to represent women who need to escape from a painful reality of violence and so many other women who are no longer here.

All of the funds raised will be distributed to the network’s shelters: Hogar Ruth, Casa Bondad, Casa Protegida Julia de Burgos, La Casa de Todos, Hogar Nueva Mujer, Hogar La Piedad, and Capromuni I and II.

“It is time to stop gender violence with so many alarming cases like those in recent days,” said Lisdel Flores, director of Hogar Ruth. “One way is to provide a safe space for women who are in imminent danger in their homes. In shelters we save the lives of women and their children. There we receive them when they arrive, often severely beaten and also with scars on their souls. I have seen how, by escaping from their attackers, they are reborn with the opportunity of a better future for themselves and their children. This Kilometers of Change race is a race for hope for so many women who deserve to live without fear.”

A large number of mayors, as well as private companies, are already supporting Kilometers of Change. The 27 marathoners will start from Central Park in San Juan on a coastal route around Puerto Rico and will finish three days later at the starting point with a festive welcome event.

Coach Freddy Rodríguez, who directs one of the largest running groups in Puerto Rico, the Freddy Runners -- and is also the founder of the Sabrina 16 miles and one of the strong pillars of Raymond Arrieta’s Da Vida walk -- is the co-founder of Kilometers of Change. Among the marathoners who will participate in the race are: television presenter Alexandra Fuentes; Omayra Borges, one of the founders of Run Like a Lola, which sponsored the “Lola’s Challenge” race; television journalist Layza Torres; Meli Ríos, a swimmer and triathlete; Yolanda Mercado, a retired elite marathoner; Carla Coira, a major marathoner and triathlete of Abbot Majors Marathon; and Patsy Ramírez, a marathoner, triathlete and ultramarathoner.

Some of the marathon runners, such as Lina García, who is a triathlete, have expressed their personal commitment to the race. “I will run because I still remember with tears how, 38 years ago, a woman ran out of her house at dawn, she grabbed me, put me in the car and told me ‘we have to go,’” García said. “I will run because I was able to end a relationship in which I was a victim of violence. I will run because today I dared to tell my story, something that I carried deep inside.”

Those who wish to donate to the cause can also donate to Banco Popular account 66-1062633.

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