Puerto Rican Runners Overcome Adversity to Participate in Popular® Brooklyn Half

Puerto Rican Runners Overcome Adversity to Participate in Popular® Brooklyn Half

In the wake of last fall’s Hurricane Maria, Puerto Ricans have shown their strength and resilience in the face of incredible adversity. A group of these brave individuals is bringing that fortitude to the 2018 Popular Brooklyn Half—along with stories of how running has influenced their lives in the months since natural disaster destroyed the place they call home.

Related: These Resilient Marathoners Trained Through Two Hurricanes


Yarelis Lebron

Yarelis Lebron 3.png

Yarelis Lebron has spent the entirety of her 36 years in San Juan, Puerto Rico. In 2016 she reached 300 pounds, decided that something about her lifestyle had to change, and underwent gastric bypass surgery the following year.

Yarelis knew she needed to stay in shape after the surgery, but struggled with anxiety in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. She turned to running not only for her physical health but for her mental health as well.

Today, Yarelis wakes up every day at 5 a.m. to run. She has come to truly enjoy the sport—though in the beginning this was not the case—and has worked her way up to double-digit mileage. For Yarelis, running is more mental than physical. If she’s tired, all she has to do is give herself a mental pep talk.  

It's that mental fortitude that will help her across the finish line at her first Popular Brooklyn Half on May 19. 

Yarelis Lebron.jpg

Luis Pagan

Luis Pagan 3 .jpeg

Luis, 61, grew up in the stunningly beautiful Maya West but currently lives in San Juan. When he was 14, he had to have surgery on his leg. Part of his recovery was to walk on the sand, and as he regained his strength, he began to run. That event began a lifetime of running for Luis.

He ran in high school and now runs six times a week with a group of colleagues known as the Torrimar Joggers.

Luis has completed the New York City Marathon several times and is very excited for his first Brooklyn Half. It's his birthday gift to himself to return to New York and run this race. 


Anthony Rivera

Anthony Rivera-Pagan.jpg

Anthony has been an avid runner for the last six years. Born in Puerto Rico, he trains on his own and also has a running coach to help him prepare for big races.

He ran the TCS New York City Marathon in 2015 and was supposed to run the Berlin Marathon in 2017, but was prevented from doing so when Hurricane Maria hit. 

In the face of devastation, Anthony and his friends got together to put on their own races for the community. They believed that bringing people together could help them recover emotionally from the hurricane. Anthony's running group became known as "Survivors of the Storm." At first, it was a challenge to rally the community, but slowly people began to come out and run with their neighbors.

On May 19, Anthony will race his first Brooklyn Half and he will be running alongside a group of his friends—just like he does at home.

Anthony Rivera-Pagan 3.jpg

While thousands of residents remain displaced, without electricity or access to clean drinking water, Puerto Rico still needs assistance in the wake of Hurricane Maria. To learn how you can help, check out Embracing Puerto Rico, an initiative led by Puerto Rico-based Popular®.

5 Food Trucks Adding Flavor to the Popular® Brooklyn Half Pre-Party

5 Food Trucks Adding Flavor to the Popular® Brooklyn Half Pre-Party

5 Ways to Get to the Popular® Brooklyn Half Pre-Party Presented by New Balance

5 Ways to Get to the Popular® Brooklyn Half Pre-Party Presented by New Balance