Débora doesn’t stop. She’s a runner, founder of Project Run the first running group in Brazil lead only by black people, founder of Project Girls, a running group just for women and also a mother of three children.
Her work gets people to start running. And it also takes runners out of treadmill, gyms, and parks, out into the streets to explore the urban environment.
We sat down with Débora and talked about all this and about her Adidas Ultra Boost 19, which she will be wearing for her half marathon in New York.
“I’m Débora, mother of three, runner, it might not look like so but I’m 39 years old, married and I’m currently the leader of a Street running group, which is the first running group led only by black people here in Brazil.”
IT’S A PASSION THAT REALLY CHANGED MY LIFE, AND TODAY I WANT TO PASS ON THIS PASSION, BACK TO SHOW PEOPLE THAT I’VE DISCOVERED THAT DÉBORA – WOMAN AND A MOTHER – THAT YES, WE CAN TAKE A LITTLE TIME TAKE CARE OF OUR HEALTH. THAT’S REALLY IMPORTANT. ON THE FAST PACE OF OUR DAY-TO-DAY LIVES EVERYONE JUST MAKES UP EXCUSES FOR WHY NOT TO GO OR NOT TO DO SOMETHING, BUT OF COURSE, YOU CAN DO IT. BUT YES YOU CAN DO IT, EVERYONE CAN DO IT.
When and how did you get involved with running?
It was actually by accident. I was living my everyday routine, with work, the house, my husband, kids; I would go to the gym what I wasn’t focused or anything. During this time I got depression that’s when I accidentally found out about running. I didn’t like for running before, because I thought it was boring, but one day I saw a few friends going to Ibirapuera park to train and I decided to go with them.
After this first workout I went a few other times and after 3 months running, I ran my first half marathon, my first 20K and 21k. My life got so much better after this day, and only those who run will understand me. Not only aesthetically but my life changed at home as well, my husband became a Runner too, and I met a lot of new people and cities in and out of Brazil.
People say that running is a solitary sport, but how could it. When you run in a group it’s one helping the other, one taking care of the other, one cheering on the other. It’s a passion that really changed my life, and today I want to pass on this passion, back to show people that I’ve discovered that Débora – woman and a mother – that yes, we can take a little time take care of our health. That’s really important. On the fast pace of our day-to-day lives everyone just makes up excuses for why not to go or not to do something, but of course, you can do it. but yes you can do it, everyone can do it.
On March 8th you debuted your new running group, Project Girls. Tell us a little bit more about this new project.
Project Girls is a workout just for women, that has the objective of getting all the women out of parks. it’s Street running, we’re going to run through this Center of the city of São Paulo we can get to know our city better and see its beauties. Together, we women can we discover ourselves, together we are stronger and that’s how we can bring other people along as well – it can be like 10 women, it doesn’t matter – but we’ll be together from beginning to end, and no one gets left behind. Running is also about overcoming yourself, it’s about giving yourself in, having your limits and overcoming your goals, getting out of the couch out of the park and getting to know São Paulo. It’s a dope City, so why not? The coolest part was that when I open up the website for subscriptions, all the 50 spots ended in 10 minutes.
Something else I had on my mind for this project was to bring it to the girls. Because we talked a lot about women, depressed women, women who lost their husband, women who gain weight and so on. But we forget that before we become women we were once girls. think that this preteen, teenage phase between 12 and 18 is the worst phase, cuz there’s that whole thing of you being too skinny, your breasts are too big, it’s the ears, it’s the hair, there is that whole phase of accepting yourself.
So the idea is to give out and 1-hour workout for these girls, one hour that they will be away from their phones. I want to get them out of social media get them together to interact among themselves, I want to talk to them and I want them to talk with each other about anything. Come with me, auntie has got you covered (laughs).
I have a 14-year-old daughter and she’s the opposite of me. She’s quiet and doesn’t talk much. One day as I was braiding her hair I noticed that her hair was falling, they were straight and thing near her head; and her arm hair was also falling. I would ask her what was happening but she wouldn’t tell me. So I went to her school and they told me she was a great student and her grades were excellent… But later on, I found out that she was suffering from bullying and racism at school. She kept it all to herself. I went an entire year unemployed, with no job so I could stay with her because she didn’t want to go to school.
If I have this kind of problem at home certainly I’m not the only one out there. And today I know how to defend myself, so if someone on the street calls me “monkey” or “negro” I”m going to call him out and debated with him. But at 9, 10 years old I didn’t know that kind of stuff. I don’t want my daughter to suffer what I suffered. Being black in Brazil it’s for the rest of your life. I always say that what I give out so little but it comes from the heart; and when I saw that all the spots happy ending in 10 minutes I realize that I was on the right way.
And Project Girls happened because of Project Run right?
Everyone has a life project, to study, to travel, to buy a car – an art project is running. I called two of my friends, they were down and we started running at Villa Lobos. The beginning we were 4, 5 people, and today we are 150 people running together every Sunday. And I don’t get a single Cent out of it, I pay for my own bus money. If it’s raining, we’re out there. If it’s freaking hot, we’re out there (laughs). What motivates me is that this transition was very hard for me, and I know I am helping other people. People look at our pictures and they think Adidas is paying for all of it, but it’s not quite like that.
I’m going to run in New York in my bank account has R$0,07 (laughs). I’m very excited because I’m going over there to exchange information, exchange culture, I want to bring back something from over there that could work over here, and show them a bit what I’m doing here. My running group is way better known out there than here because sadly here in Brazil people can only see those “negros”, and it’s not like that over there, all the coolest, dopest runners are black. There was this once me and my husband were running in New York, we got a message from people over there saying “it’s dope what you’re doing for our brothers over there. Keep going and don’t stop! It was fucking awesome to hear something like that, sometimes you think that nobody’s watching, but no, people out there are watching.
You started running in the park, how was this transition from the park to the streets?
I started doing tryouts for São Silvestre, I ran with those old guys that you think is dying actually they run way better than you (laughs). And I started thinking “man, this is so dope, this is what I want”. You know Sao Paulo is so big, why only stay in the park running the same path? And because of that today I know much more of São Paulo because of running than I did before – because I had the same routine every day, I will take the same bus, same subway, I would take the same way but the same streets – you just don’t leave that path.
What do sneakers mean to you?
I’m a bit biased to say. I love sneakers, they’re practicality, comfort, and lifestyle. I have a lot of running shoes, but I also have some Superstars that I really love. You know those all white ones that go with everything you put on? So if you let me I’m wearing sneakers 24/7. Sneakers are life.
IT’S FUNNY TO SEE HOW ONE THING LEADS TO THE OTHER LIKE BECAUSE OF RUNNING AND MY PASSION FOR IT, I ENDED UP DOING SOME REALLY COOL STUFF.