Open Run Spotlight: Mario Silva Finds a New Lease on Life Through Running

Open Run Spotlight: Mario Silva Finds a New Lease on Life Through Running

During 2019, we’ll highlight NYRR Open Run participants, volunteers, and groups whose stories and accomplishments have had an impact on their neighborhoods and communities.


Mario with Nora Lew at a recent Open Run in Cunningham Park.

Mario with Nora Lew at a recent Open Run in Cunningham Park.

Growing up, Mario Silva suffered from asthma, and his family and friends told him the condition was a barrier to playing sports and games. Mario came to believe he wasn’t supposed to be a runner, a conviction he carried into his 40s. “I used to only run if I was being chased, and only if I couldn't kill it with my bare hands,” he says drily, his sense of humor belying his feelings of intimidation.   

Though he’d become a casual biker, Mario was interested in getting healthier and more active. A couple of years ago, encouraged by his wife after learning that NYRR Open Run had launched in Cunningham Park and that walkers were welcome, he decided to take his first steps into the running world.

Mario encouraging a fellow Open Runner while volunteering in February 2019.

Mario encouraging a fellow Open Runner while volunteering in February 2019.

Mario, now 43, recalls his first Open Run, in 2017: “Going up the first hill, I busted my knee and my ankle, and I limped back.”  

Truly faced with an uphill battle, Mario found motivation in the Open Run community. As he progressed from walking to jogging, he made new friends such as Mitchell Strong and Nora Lew, popular Cunningham Park Open Runners. Mitchell, a strong distance runner and ultramarathoner, slowed his pace to accommodate Mario. Nora and her family were consistently present at the runs, cheering on Mario and his peers. 

Meeting runners helped Mario catch the bug because they were so inclusive and welcoming. He runs with groups like the Cunninghammers, which he describes as more of a social club, and Queens Distance Runners, a team of more serious runners. He loves being part of a running community that has varied levels of seriousness and commitment, providing something for everyone.

Mario cheers on his Cunningham Park Open Run community.

Mario cheers on his Cunningham Park Open Run community.

Mario says he was “antisocial” and “grumpy” before he found running and Open Run. “I was miserable,” he recalls. “Now I’m much happier—blame it on the endorphins.”  

He has started to see the health changes he first sought, as well. His asthma has vastly improved—he hasn’t used his inhaler in over four months—and he’s lost 30 pounds.   

While Mario can’t keep up with his wife yet (his favorite hashtag is #mywifeisfasterthaniam), running has given him a new lease on life. It just took a little help from his Cunningham Park Open Run community. 

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