Alyssa Ruiz Is Living Out Her Father’s Running Dreams in the Bronx

Alyssa Ruiz Is Living Out Her Father’s Running Dreams in the Bronx

Back for more: Alyssa finished a 5K race at the 2016 New Balance Bronx 10 Mile.

Back for more: Alyssa finished a 5K race at the 2016 New Balance Bronx 10 Mile.

Just three days before 61-year-old Nelson Ruiz was set to run the 2016 TCS New York City Marathon, his first 26.2-miler, he went out for a shakeout run and never returned home.

The Bronx resident and retired NYPD sergeant suffered a massive heart attack.

This September, his 39-year-old daughter, Alyssa, is running the New Balance Bronx 10 Mile, her longest race to date, in memory of her father and his unfulfilled dream.

Born and raised in the Bronx, where she still lives today, Alyssa has run on and off over the years, yet never considered herself a runner. But her father’s ambitious goal of running a marathon inspired her to get more serious about the sport. “Training for the 2017 New Balance Bronx 10 Mile has been life-changing for me,” she says. “I have run faster and farther than I ever have in my life.”

Her father’s legacy isn’t the only thing fueling her training—running is also a way for Alyssa to cope. “While it allows me to connect with my father in a deeply personal way, running also gives me the space to connect with myself and push through the thoughts that flood my mind. It’s helped me process my grief in a positive and productive way.”

She’s also got the support of a great training partner—her 7-year-year-old son. “We have made it a mother-son ritual,” says Alyssa. “I run, he bikes. He leads the way and coaches me while I try to keep up.”

In September 2016, Nelson Ruiz used the TCS New York City Marathon Tune-Up to prep for his first 26.2-miler.

In September 2016, Nelson Ruiz used the TCS New York City Marathon Tune-Up to prep for his first 26.2-miler.

This time last year, Alyssa’s father was training for the TCS New York City Marathon with NYRR Team for Kids, a group of adult runners who raise money to support free youth fitness programs in schools and community centers in New York City and nationwide.

The cause is just as close to Alyssa’s heart as it was her father’s: “It is important for me to show my son the significance of physical activity and health at such an early stage in his life,” she says. “Running with my son also allows me to teach him about perseverance, determination, and overcoming challenges.”

It is also important to Alyssa to be racing 10 miles in a part of the city where residents experience social and economic barriers to healthcare. “As a public health professional in NYC, I know that the Bronx is plagued with some stark and devastating health outcomes,” she says. “Running this race in my home borough with many other fellow Bronxites, celebrating our borough, being physically active in our boroughs—it makes me even more proud.”

Alyssa's family had made T-shirts to support Nelson on race day. 

Alyssa's family had made T-shirts to support Nelson on race day. 

Still, come race day, the number-one thing on Alyssa’s mind will be her father, Nelson.

“What will it feel like to know that I have completed a 10-mile race, knowing I did it for my dad?” she says. “I'm looking forward to experiencing whatever emotions take over in that moment. I'm sure it will be an emotional one, but what a sense of accomplishment!”

Join Alyssa in the Bronx: There are sill a limited number of spots left for the New Balance Bronx 10 Mile on Sunday, September 24. 

Meb Marathon Moment Mondays: 2006

Meb Marathon Moment Mondays: 2006

Running 18 to Tune Up for 26.2

Running 18 to Tune Up for 26.2