GROUNDBREAKERS: Celebrating Black History Month

GROUNDBREAKER: One that innovates

For Black History Month, we’re running a series entitled "Groundbreakers" featuring stories from Black athletes highlighting the people they see as having broken ground before them. New Groundbreakers are born every day. This month, we celebrate a handful of those who have inspired Black athletes of today. 




Alysia Montaño running on a track

What are some places you have run or want to run that hold special significance for you?

I am really grateful to have the ability to run far and fast and I really am grateful that my job has allowed me the ability to travel to so many incredible places throughout the world. I am the worst person to ask for favorites or to pick any one of anything because I just find so much beauty in the everyday of everything that surrounds me. A place that will always mean a lot to me is Jamaica. It's where my family comes from and we hold significant memories there with incredible family reunions, clear and expansive ocean waters, and wonderful cultural connections. My grandma is Jamaican by way of Cuba—in which I have no idea from what country in Africa, due to the African diaspora—but I felt something special when I was in Cuba, the one time I went. I can't put my finger on it, but I want to go back, spend more time there and do my favorite thing: “runsploration.” In addition to all of that, a place I have never been and would love to go, is Africa. I'd love to runsplore different countries within it. I could keep going on all of the wonderful places that make great runsploration spots, but we don't have enough time. To name a few: Italy, Japan, Spain, Belgium, New Zealand, and Australia. In the United States: Hawaii, Colorado, and of course, California's coastlines, deserts, mountains, and forests. What is crazy to me is that I have spent so much time in other countries that I have yet to properly explore the US, so that is a goal of mine. We hope to tackle the national parks and do a little runsploration as we make it a family goal to add them all to our places we have been to, seen, and ran. 


Who were the athletes you looked up to as you grew into your running career, and who do you see breaking ground around you now that you feel will inspire future generations?  

I can't really think of any athletes that I looked up to, per se, as I grew into my running career. I was more of a super-duper soccer fan—I still am—but I definitely saw a pathway from a few runners that helped move the sport of running forward. One of them was my high school teammate, Lauren Fleshman. After she graduated, she would come back to our summer camps while I was still in high school, after she earned an opportunity to attend a top-tier college through academics and athletics, and it definitely motivated quite a few of us to stay the course as students and athletes. After college, she went on to pursue a professional running career, that featured making an Olympic team and running as a world- class athlete, taking her performance to a whole new level. I have always appreciated her grit and determination to explore the possibilities of her potential, not just in running, but outside of it as well. I appreciate the whole person perspective and know that it life wholeness is key to changing the game.


As an inspirational force yourself, who do you channel when taking the steps to enact change? 

I don't know if I would say I channel anyone, but I really try to tap into my inner voice that knows there is more change to be made, and the fight for good is hardly winnable by just sitting around. I love being a mom, I love being a woman, and I love being Black. All of those motivate me to fight for change. I think of my kids and how I want to help make changes for the world they will grow up in and I think of my ancestors and the barriers that laid before them, the chipping away of the dirt that was dumped on them in hopes to bury them, and the continual digging to grab a hold of solid ground, breakthrough and resist. We've been resisting, and if I know anything about resistance from physical training, resistance creates change. And that’s what I aim to do: Resist and create change.  


About the author: 

Alysia Montaño is an American Olympian, athlete, activist, author, podcast host, mother, and co-founder of &MOTHER, a non-profit that aims to break down barriers that limit a woman’s choice to pursue and thrive in career and motherhood. 

Follow Alysia on Instagram: @alysiamontano